“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” (Luke 21:3-4)
Relate: Most of the time I love the way our Bibles are broken into chapter and verse. It helps for easy location and reference, it aids in creating sizable chunks for memorization, it clearly is a blessing… most of the time. Then there are times when I simply feel they have got it wrong. There are times when chapter breaks, or even section breaks, get in the way of our understanding what is really going on. This is one of those times. Understand that there was a time when those breaks didn’t exist. At that time, this is what people would have read:
Then, with the crowds listening, he turned to his disciples and said, “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished.”
While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”
With the above in mind, let’s lay down some facts: 1) There are no adjectives or adverbs in talking about the widow’s mite. Jess says nothing to commend the widow for her giving, nor does he say anything about how she felt about her gift. He is merely making an observation. 2) If this was only about giving, Jesus could have used a “poor man” to relate his point or even a “poor woman”. The fact that He specifically talks about a “poor widow” right here, right now brings us to… 3) His illustration happens immediately after Jesus warns us against the teachers of the law who pretend to be religious men and then turn around and oppress the poor. It is almost as if the poor widow in fact (chap 21) mirrors the poor widow in His example (chap 20)
React: There have been times when I have been tempted to think to God, “I’ve been tithing so You have to bless me.” Or “how can you let this financial situation happen when I have been faithful in giving?” It is true that you cannot outgive God. This poor widow, at the cost of a few cents, has earned eternal fame to the point that we are still talking (and writing) about her thousands of years later). How many of her neighbors can say that? Yet, at the same time in context, she is having her house devoured. While she is placing her offering in the plate, the “pastor” is making the bank foreclose on her home and Jesus says nothing about her offering being the “seed” that will prevent that.
Giving my tithe is not a religious thing. It is a debt that I owe God and I am required to pay back. It is obedience. I do not earn brownie points with the big man for doing it. On the flip side, giving to support my World Vision sponsor child (yes, I am still doing that even though I’ve moved to Turkey) is most definitely a religious thing. So is being late to work because you helped the lady on the side of the road fix her flat tire. So is Scout spending time with Mrs Dubose. So is… you fill in the blank. True religion is avoiding evil and helping the widows and orphans in their time of distress. It has nothing to do with how much I put in the offering plate or even how much of a sacrifice it was for me to put it there. God doesn’t just want our money. He wants everything.
God, help me to give everything I have to give. Even more help me to realize that doing so has nothing at all to do with money. Help me to give my time, my talents, my love, my prayers, my words, my money, my passion to those who so desperately need for You to intervene in their lives. Let everything I have be used for others. Pour me out.