Monday, August 24, 2015

The widow who gave all

[A personal note, here, if you will bear with me. Jessica Munden, you and others who have commented, I want to tell you that your words are appreciated....if I can't respond to your comment, due to interwebs issues, I hope you will be forgiving.
Each of you that pauses here to read and to pray, each of you that takes a moment to comment; I am grateful for all of you. I can see on the blog statistics the traffic and the numbers of people who read, and I am humbled and motivated. At a moment when I am rushed, or worried, or even panicked(!), I remember that you are all there, and it makes me so thankful. The blessings I receive from leading this group of Christian women (and some men!) are so precious to me. Please know that I am here for you; I pray for all of you; I thank God "upon every remembrance of you."]

                    As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.“Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All                     these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)
For such a short passage, there is a lot packed into our study this week!
Let's dive in!

Jesus and his disciples were seated in the temple, near the treasury. Offerings were given in a very different way then from what we may be accustomed to now. No ushers bringing offering plates to the seated worshipers. Nope.

There were thirteen receptacles for the offerings. Try to imagine the scene . . . this was a temple that was known for its opulence and the fact that it was SO BIG. (To show you how far they had come, Herod's temple mount encompassed 35 acres! The tabernacle in David's day was 3 x 5 cubits. Solomon's altar was sixteen feet tall, and Herod the Great's altar was a whopping 45 feet in height!) No expense had been spared in its construction, nor in its outfitting. Only the best materials, and a lot of 'em. Ornate decorations, gold and gilt, expensive marbles and stones. The special offering holders were an example of the over-the-top showmanship here, inside what was supposed to be "God's house." They were large, metal containers with funnel-shaped openings on the top. When you put your offering in, the metal coins would clatter and clang all the way to the bottom. Especially if you put them in, in a particular way that enhanced that noise. (Not sure why Blogger messed with my font here...can't seem to fix it. Oh well.)

And of course, many people did want to show off. So they would put in their coins in that special way, and enjoy hearing the jangle of the money as it made its way down the funnel. You could even tell by the sound if the worshiper had put gold or silver coins in! The rich would make a great show of putting in many coins, that clattered down as if to announce "this person is so wealthy that they gave a large amount today!" And the religious leaders would do it so that everyone would see that they had fulfilled their obligations.

That may be why Jesus chose the treasury as the place that He would give His final teaching before leaving the temple forever. He had just experienced a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the religious leaders had rebuked Him for the joyous celebrations of His followers. Here, Jesus contrasts the phony goodness of those leaders with the true devotion of one poor widow. He gives us some principles about giving that we need to know.  

This story is also told in Mark's gospel, and he writes that Jesus "beheld" (KJV) what the people gave. The root of that word gives us a meaning of "looking with interest and purpose, carefully observing." And of all the people that Jesus beheld, the poor widow was the one person who impressed Him. 
God is interested in our giving. He has a plan for our giving. Some people resist it and don't like to talk about it, but His plan is called tithing. It means one-tenth.

                     Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food
                     in my house, and try me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if
                     I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for
                     you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to 
                     receive it. (Malachi 3:10)

I guess it could be because people have heard preachers that really "battering ram" their congregations with stewardship sermons. Over and over again they are hollered at to make sure they tithe, and give for special offerings and efforts, too. 
Or maybe it is the terrible testimonies of some celebrity evangelists and personalities, who are routinely pleading with their listeners to give, give, give, all the while they are amassing fortunes from the offerings that are sent to them. They sit in tv studios with opulent sets and decorations, and ask for money from people who have far less to give than they do, themselves.

Some say that tithing is an "Old Testament thing." Yes, we can see that in Genesis 14, Abraham offered a tithe of all that he had. Tithing was practiced before the Law, under the Law, and after the Law in the New Testament. Others resist because they say it is "legalistic" and point to the religious leaders of Jesus' day, who tithed everything with great show, even to the herbs in their gardens, but did not have compassion on those around them in need -- remember when Jesus pointed that out?

And in contrast to this poor widow, some try to tithe the wrong way. They try to give a tenth, as long as it's left over at the end of the month. It's a step of faith to give that tenth at the beginning, before all the bills are paid, isn't it? 
I Corinthians 16:1-4 talks to us about setting aside at the first of the week, what we plan to give. That's giving our gift to God top priority.

This widow, however, didn't stop at giving a tenth. She gave all.
We'll learn more about this next time. 


Katie Isabella said...

Now that was, as all of these are, much much needed. Thank you.

Austin Towers said...

It is very much the attitude of heart, isn't it! To be prepared to give our all shows humility and trust (that word again!). Hugs, Caro x

Cathy said...

It takes trust to tithe, to give to God first, before anything else is paid. But it also takes organization, and concentrated budgeting and living within our means, which is a very little known skill in our day and age. The emphasis of the world is to go out and spend, get it now, buy it now, go into debt, you can pay for it later. I know how hard that is. We've been there, head over heals in debt, to the extent that there was far more going out each month than was coming in. And where was our giving to God during that time...... totally absent, to our great shame.

Anonymous said...

I just want to show my appreciation ! Great study as always. No worries if and when you do not comment back :)

Belinda said...

This story always makes me feel a bit guilty. And I guess it's supposed to, huh?