Prepare to Listen. As you slow down, still your heart and mind with this prayer: See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.
Prayerfully Read Luke 20:45-21:4
45In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, 46‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets. 47They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’
Ch. 21 1He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’
I’ve often heard the story of the poor widow told in ways that made me feel guilty about my giving. She’s used as an example of generosity as the preacher concludes, “Give, until it hurts.” But Jesus doesn’t use her as an example of giving and neither does he conclude with a demand to give sacrificially. That’s a misuse of this story.
Luke has deliberately placed the widow’s story immediately after Jesus’ warning about the scribes. Their ostentatious show of piety stands in contrast to the poor widow’s sacrificial giving. And it’s the widow who comes up smelling like roses, not the scribes. They devoured widows’ houses, perhaps demanding money to support their role as rabbi, and perhaps offering to pray long prayers for them if they did. Jesus warned, “They will receive the greater condemnation.”
Jesus then looked up and saw people, rich and poor, putting money into the temple treasury. Only one catches his attention and earns his praise, a poor widow. Widows were the lowly, living on the fringes of society, ignored, abused even (their houses devoured by scribes). They never expected commendation. But that’s the only person Jesus singled out and praised. Once again, Jesus did what he came to do—bring down the powerful and lift up the lowly. I also hope he stuck his hand into the treasury and gave a handful of coins to this poor widow.
What would you like Jesus to have done for the widow? What would you do?
Respond to Jesus
Lord, you challenge us to think how we treat those less fortunate than ourselves. Guard me from the ways of the scribes that harm the weak and vulnerable. Like you, I want to stand on their side today. Amen.
Live obediently. Follow Jesus who stands with the vulnerable poor.
I began reading my Bible when I was 8 years old. I loved it then (albeit didn't understand much) and I still love reading and studying it. I may understand a little more but I keep learning new stuff, seeing things I missed for years. This journey with Luke during Lent has been another new learning experience for me, deepening my relationship with Jesus. I pray it will do the same for you.