Jesus told his audience that they were to not follow the behavior of the religious leaders.
He told the crowd, “They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation” (Luke 20.47).
Widows in the first century were the most vulnerable members of society. Women were not allowed to work. Their opportunities for survival were slim.
— Some widows were cared for by family members, but apparently, they ended up in a servant’s role to the household.
— Begging for support was another possibility for a widow.
— Widows occasionally resorted to prostitution in order to survive.
Jesus condemned the religious authorities because they were more interested in their status and possession than in the vulnerable members of society.
The Temple and the leaders of the Temple were charged with upholding God’s values for humans.
There is a consistent theme of care for the vulnerable in the Book of Exodus and throughout the remainder of the Bible.
–– Exodus 22.21-23 – You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
You shall not abuse any widow or orphan.
If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry . . .
The status and long prayers of the Temple official did not impress God, because they were ignoring a fundamental concern of the Lord.
The next event is part of the ongoing discussion between Jesus and the religious authorities.
No sooner had he criticized the behavior of the scribes, than he turned to observe offerings that were being made in the Temple.
— Luke 21.1-4 – He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury;
He also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.
He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them;
“For all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”
There are two ways that Bible students understand this episode.
(1) In his commentary on Luke, Joel Green points out how the Temple structure abused widows.
The Temple tax took her very last means of support. It is an apt description of the contrast between the wealthy and the most vulnerable members of society.
The rich were able to give out of their abundance. When the widow fulfilled her requirements, she had nothing left to live on.
The experience of the poorest members of Israel’s society knew the pain of taxation. They lived so close to starvation that any additional expense had serious repercussions.
Green’s interpretation of this passage is the first time I have considered this view of the story. Without a doubt, Jesus regularly called people to consider the poor and vulnerable persons of society.
His teaching was appropriate both then and now.
(2) The understanding of the widow’s actions that I have understood in the past was to Laud her giving spirit in contrast to the rich who only gave what was required.
Either way, you look at it, the widow was faithful. She gave all that she had to live on and trusted her existence to God.
She knew what King Ahaz in the days of Isaiah refused to acknowledge. “If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all” (Isaiah 7.9).
She knew that the only way she could “stand” was to “stand firm in faith,” trusting God for her very existence.
Show Me Your Checkbook
A preacher once said, “Show me your checkbook and I will tell you about your spiritual condition.”
How we spend our money is a picture of our priorities. The widow was determined to give God her best, no matter what.
The others did what was required, but retained plenty for their own uses.
Let’s ask God to reveal our hearts, as we meditate on the widow who gave her all.
I always enjoy talking about the Bible with Rudy Ross. Rudy has so much to add to the discussion. You can listen to our conversation on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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