Joshua 24:1-33; Luke 21:1-28; Psalm 89:38-52; Proverbs 13:20-23
No matter how many times I read the story of the poor widow, I am blown away. I love this story in Luke 21, told in just 4 simple verses. But those 4 verses reveal so much about the rich, the poor and how Jesus feels about giving. Let’s break it down.
Jesus is in the temple teaching those who have gathered around him and he observes two groups of people giving of their finances to the work of God. The first group is “rich” – we aren’t told more than that about them, simply that they give out of their abundance. The second is a poor widow, who puts in “two small copper coins” (Lk. 21:2). The Greek word used here is “lepta” – a lepton was a Jewish bronze or copper coin worth about 1/128 of a typical day’s wage - and she gives two. If a typical day’s wage today is about $200, we’re talking about putting $3.13 in the offering plate. It’s a very small amount of money. But Jesus is more impressed with what she gave than all the others. Neither group appears overly showy in their giving, nor overly humble. We’re just told that they approach the offering box and give. And yet Jesus draws everyone’s attention to the poor widow because “she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (vs. 4). Jesus says she put in the most, because what she gave actually cost her. The rich may have given generously, but they didn’t feel it. The poor widow gave all the money she had, giving up resources that might have instead paid for dinner and clothing and shelter. She gave out of poverty, all that she had.
I come from a church background. If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you’ve probably picked up that my dad was a pastor for most of my growing up years. To say we are a church family is an understatement; and if you are a church family, you give to God’s work. This has always been clear in my mind, even as a young child. So I’ve always given to the churches I’ve attended. In college, even when I wasn’t making much, I gave on a consistent basis. As I graduated from college and went into seminary, where I was paying my way through and working as I could, I still gave. Then as I got my first real job, I was so excited to be able to give more. As I transitioned jobs and got raises, I was able to give more. I truly do love giving to God’s work and feel very cheerful now when I see that automatic deduction come out of our checking account.
But I can say, with absolute certainty, that I have never given like this woman. I am the rich man in this story. I give, but it doesn’t really cost me anything. Sure, if we didn’t give we could go out to eat more, or even buy a second car so my husband didn’t have to ride his bike to work. But that’s not at all a comparison to what this woman gave. She gave out of her poverty. Truthfully, I’ve never really been poor. Even in college and grad school, when money was tight, I never worried about my next meal. So I’ve never had the opportunity to give out of my poverty. But I’ve had the opportunity to be so generous that it hurt and I can’t say that I’ve ever really done that.
We know from other places in Scripture that how we spend our money reflects what is really going on in our hearts. I want to be open-handed with my money; I want my money to go to God’s work first, knowing that he will provide for me and my family. I want to be so trusting of his goodness and provision that I’m able to give like this widow. And I have a long way to go. But every step we take is a good one, one in which Jesus is pleased as we loosen our hold on our money, slowly but surely.
- Esther McCurry
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