The Faithfulness of a Poor Widow
Heavenly Father, as we gather in reflection and meditation, open our hearts to receive the wisdom found in your Word. May the lessons of sacrificial giving and steadfastness shape our lives as we navigate the Advent season. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Luke 20:41 – 21:4
41 Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? 42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms:
“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
43 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.” ’
44 David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”
45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
21:1 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
The Great Tradition
Although the spite of some people does not grow gentle with any kindness, nevertheless the works of mercy are not fruitless, and kindness never loses what is offered to the ungrateful. May no one, dearly beloved, make themselves strangers to good works. Let no one claim that his poverty scarcely sufficed for himself and could not help another. What is offered from a little is great, and in the scale of divine justice, the quantity of gifts is not measured but the steadfastness of souls. The “widow” in the Gospel put two coins into the “treasury,” and this surpassed the gifts of all the rich. No mercy is worthless before God. No compassion is fruitless. He has given different resources to human beings, but he does not ask different affections. (Leo the Great)
Prayer of Confession
Merciful Father, forgive us for the times we have given out of abundance without true sacrifice. We confess the moments of comparison that have tainted our joy in giving. Grant us the grace to cultivate sacrificial hearts and to embrace a Kingdom economy that values steadfastness and godly affections. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
I am tempted to let Leo the Great’s words stand alone for today’s reflection for they are beautifully and poignantly expressed. This morning I was reading A Christmas Carol by Dickens. The two men collecting money for the poor introduced themselves and their errand to Scrooge, at which time they were immediately and ungraciously rebuffed with his contempt and disdain for others, including these “do-gooders.” Here was a man who could have financially helped everyone within his sphere yet closed his heart to them all. (Of course, we know the rest of the story and what can happen to a person whose heart is reborn and reopened by grace.)
Yet the people Luke tells us about in today’s Scripture are of a different kind than Scrooge was in the scene I described. These are people who could give much and did so. It’s not that they were wrong to give. But they were giving out of their abundance and thus their offering was not sacrificial. The poor widow, who probably should have been the recipient of the temple treasury’s provision for the poor, gave out of her impoverished condition. Hers, according to Jesus, was the sacrificial gift that is dear to our Father’s heart.
Whether we are giving money or our time and talent, God calls us to be living sacrifices, which is our acceptable service to the Lord (Romans 12:1). It shows our commitment to God to be sure. But it also reveals a deep dependence upon him as well. For if we give what we will not miss, or do that which costs us nothing, we are not living sacrificial lives.
Let me hasten to add that we are not called to live this sort of life in order to earn the favor of God. If we are Christians, then we have already been saved by God’s grace alone, received by faith in Christ alone. This is no meritorious system. This is fruit. What else would a life redeemed and reconciled by a gracious God look like?
The other word of caution we must be mindful of is to avoid comparing our giving to others. All others. As the old saying goes, comparison is death to contentment. Another cliché reminds us that comparison is death to joy. The widow gave numerically less than the others yet gave more because it was all she had. That’s how God’s Kingdom economy works. In Jesus’ parable of the talents, the person who increased the two talents he was given to four, received the same praise as the one who doubled his five talents to ten. Each was given a particular number of talents. Each was faithful with what he had been given. Each received the same praise from his master.
Whether you are rich or poor, gifted with many talents or few, you are called to give out of what the Lord has provided you. If you have more, give more. If you have little, give what you are able. Leo was surely correct when he said, “What is offered from a little is great, and in the scale of divine justice, the quantity of gifts is not measured but the steadfastness of souls.” Let the steadfastness of your soul be enlarged, like the widow’s soul in our Scripture, or like the soul of Ebeneezer Scrooge himself. Not because you have to, as our senior pastor likes to put it, but because you get to. Yet let this paraphrased divine caveat be inserted here: “to the person who has been given much, much is expected (Luke 12:48). Let the recipients of such gifts rejoice at the opportunities that await.
During this Advent season let’s intentionally seek ways to sincerely express the words of gratitude, “Thanks be to God,” for the opportunities that await us in sacrificial giving. May the lessons from the widow’s offering inspire us to live out the principles of a sacrificial heart, God’s Kingdom economy, and a life free from comparison. In every act of giving, let’s reflect the love and generosity of our Savior, who gave himself for us, sacrificially. Amen.
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Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: (Proverbs 23:19)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.