A LIVING MESSAGE
New King James Version (NKJV)Beware of the Scribes
38 Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
The Widow’s Two Mites41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. 42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites,[a] which make a quadrans. 43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”ever miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.
As Jesus travelled to Jerusalem, the scribes and Pharisees have been constantly badgering him, trying to get him to say something wrong in order to discredit him.
-by whose authority are you doing these things.
-then the test on paying taxes to Caesar.
-trick questions on the resurrection.
-what is the greatest commandment?
Our Gospel lesson describes a scene where Jesus is taking the scribes to task. Jesus is pointing out the negative value of their pride and greed and the affect there are having on the poor, especially widows.
Jesus goes on to tell them they were using their office to take advantage of those most vulnerable in society- the widows.
-They for-closed on the houses of the widows.
-They encouraged the poor to make offering they couldn’t afford.
(Doesn’t that sound familiar.)
Everywhere in the Hebrew scripture, there is condemnation for those who take advantage of the stranger, the widow and the orphan.
In spite of these warnings to provide protection and justice for the widows, the religious leaders were using their position to as we would say, “fleece the flock”
No wonder Jesus was upset!
As we move further into our reading from the scripture, we are introduced to a poor widow, and her behavior is in contrast that of the wealthy and the scribes.
She comes to the court of the temple, where there are thirteen (13) trumpet shaped chests, to receive the offering. The trumpet shape allowed the money to easily funnel in and they were made of metal which allowed onlookers to tell what others were giving.
Remember there were no silent offering in Jesus’ day and currency was gold, silver and copper coins.
One can imagine the scene before Jesus. There the rich people hurrying by in their long robes, stirring up dust, tossing gold and silver coins into the trumpets. And then the widow walks in, looking attentively at a trumpet, and holding the two copper coins in her hand. They were the smallest coin in Palestinian economy.
-The widow knew that others were giving more. (she could hear the coins dropping into the trumpets) But it didn’t seem to bother her.
Widows were right down at the bottom of the social order in Jesus' time. They had no male to defend them, or work to support them.
So widows and poverty went pretty well hand in hand, and to expect a widow to have money to give, was totally unrealistic.
Jesus tells us this widow, “out of her love for God”, she gave all she had, two small copper coins.
--The widow sent a direct message to those with money. Seemingly the wealthy gave out of their abundance. Like us, they gave up what they really didn’t need.
In today’s gospel passage, Jesus is comparing the wealthy to the poor widow.
What about us? How much do we cling to our possessions? We might be tempted to say, “well the men in the gospel story are rich, I’m not rich.” So this gospel is about Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, but it’s not about me. Wrong!
This gospel is about you and me. We live in one of the affluent country in history of the world. No, Jesus is not against ownership of possessions, but he is telling us to lessen our attachment to them.
***species of jellyfish—in Italian Mediterranian
Feeds on tiny snails—protected shell
Jellyfish can’t digest—once eaten
Bizarre reversal of roles-the diner becomes the dinner
Attach to jellyfish digestive tract—eats the jellyfish
When snail matures—completely consumed the jellyfish
The poor jellyfish is eventually consumed by what it has consumed.
What we consume, too can consume us; we can be swallowed up in pursuit of wealth, prestige, and power. Jesus is warning the wealthy and all of us to be careful of the “snails” we consume that can consume us.
Jesus had witnessed the widow give all she had to God; and I think her actions were a LIVING MESSAGE to the wealthy and us!
--Jesus, he saw that this widow had put her trust completely in God, and made an offering of everything she had, her whole living. It was like a personal message to Him. He knew he was just four days away from his death and that he was also being challenged to give up everything he owned, which wasn’t much. He was being called to do God’s will, he would have to put his trust totally in God, and give up his life, his whole living.
The widow’s message :
--To the modern scribes Wall Street and today’s gigantic corporations; who have made “ PROFITABILITY” the one emotion driving their decisions, all based on making themselves wealthy.
They often have total disregard for how their extreme actions negatively affect so many people’s lives.
–– Business executives are tempted to treat customers and employees as cogs in the moneymaking machine.
–– Government officials are tempted to sell policy and privilege for campaign contributions or personal favors.
–– Military leaders are tempted to put personal promotions above the welfare of subordinates.
–– Teachers are tempted to put salaries and work conditions above students.
–– Mechanics are tempted to recommend unneeded repairs.
–– It is not only people at the bottom who are vulnerable. An embezzler victimizes his/her employer. A person who falsely accuses a supervisor of discrimination or sexual harassment becomes the harasser. In those situations, the employer or supervisor can be vulnerable –– just as a widow is vulnerable
The widow is truly an example for them to change their attitude to one of “humility and generosity”; to Love their neighbour as themselves.
--And as for us the laity, well I guess we each will have different thoughts on what the story of the widow’s mite can mean to us in the year 2015.
In the story there were wealthy people who were faithfully paying what was referred to as a “temple tax.” It’s important to note that Jesus never disparages or belittles the gifts of the large givers. And when he holds the widow up as an example of generosity, he’s not praising small gifts over large ones.
"See that woman?" Jesus asks. "She gave more than anybody else because “they” gave out of their abundance, “but she gave everything she had." Taking this statement literally is unrealistic and a bit irresponsible. We all know it takes more than a widow’s mite to run a church.
If we gave all that we had to the church we would be wearing loin-clothes, driving horse and buggies and living in tents. ( igloos.)
But the verse finishes “she gave everything she, her whole life” I think it means more than just a gift of money, maybe it has something to do with making our lives a LIVING MESSAGE. What do you think? We all might think of the widow’s message in different ways.
*Some of us might take a look at how we allocate our finances and give more emphasis on “gifts to others less fortunate.”
*Some of us might think of ways our family can live a little a simpler lifestyle; or we might give some thought of the impact our food purchases have on our health and the environment.
*Others might search for ways to make time to serve others; visiting the shut-ins or sick, telephone calls to those living alone, maybe help with their grocery shopping.
I heard a story—I’m sure it’s not true, but it’s a good illustration.
A man applied for a job as a handyman. The perspective employer asked, “can you do carpentry?” The man answered in the negative.
“How about bricklaying?’ Again the man answered, “no”.
The employer asked, “well, what about electrical work?” The man said “no”.
I don’t know anything about that either.
Finally the employer said, “Well, tell me then what is handy about you?
The man replied, “ I live just around the corner”.
So we see that sometimes the greatest ability we can have is availability. To be where God has called us, to be within whisper range of god’s summons, that is the beginning of a life of meaningful discipleship.
Maybe it’s a reminder that most important things in life are not the bigger house, the better car, the hotter investment portfolio, up-to-date clothes or a trimmer waist line.
According to Jesus, all that we have comes from God and belongs to God. Life itself is God’s gift to us. How we live our life, and what we do with what we’ve been given IS OUR GIFT TO God.