Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.” Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”
Dear God, I think one of the biggest obstacles for people as we try to read the Bible is the same obstacle we have when we read a text from a friend–tone of voice can be everything. This story about the widow is a great example. I’ve read it countless times. Most Christians are familiar with it. If I say the words “The Widow’s Mite” to a group of Christians, they immediately know what I mean. But how much do we miss in this story?
Several years ago, I had a revelation from you that this widow likely never knew that Jesus saw her faithfulness that day, and she likely went home that day as poor as she was when the day started. She likely died however many years later as poor as she was when she dropped in those coins. There was no monetary reward for her faithfulness. There was provision from you. There was peace. And there was the immortality of me even knowing about her 2,000 years later. But here were no earthly riches for her.
So that’s a pretty good revelation. But then I read Fred Smith’s blog post this morning, and he pointed out another aspect of this story. Because of story headings, chapter breaks, and verses that translators of the Bible have given us so that we can more easily find things, we often make the mistake of separating stories in the middle. This one is an example.
Fred pointed out that Mark tells us two stories back to back. Jesus has just finished a rant about the Pharisees taking from widows (among others) and then he goes over to the offerings and seems to wait for a widow to come by to make his point. Fred mentioned that this widow was giving to the very group that Jesus said had held her down and even taken from her. This add even another layer to this story. How do I keep myself from being a Pharisee that 1.) takes advantage of widows and 2.) doesn’t squander the offerings the give to you?
I’m in a unique position as the director of a nonprofit that takes donations from hundreds of people each year, including some widows. This story is not just a reminder for me to be a giver of my personal resources, but also reminds me to make sure I am being fair to and loving each donor and then using their donations to reach out and help everyone we can.
Father, help me to hear your voice when I read my Bible. Help me to hear your tone of voice in the words. Reveal to me the things I’ve missed over the years. Help me to break away from the erroneous teaching that has been accidentally (or perhaps intentionally) passed down from each preceding generation. Love through me, and help me to decrease so that you will increase. Of course, the ultimate goal for my life is that you will use it however you need to so that you kingdom will come and your will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In Jesus’s name I pray,