Jesus’ Observations of Giving by the Poor and Wealthy

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is about the poor widow’s offering and religious leaders taking advantage of widows. Mark 12:38-44.

untitled38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” The Widow’s Offering 41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

There are many things going on in these verses.

  • Jesus was warning people about religious folks who like to be honored walking around in expensive clothing, and greeted with respect, yet they rob poor widows
  • Jesus watches the offerings very closely
  • Modest giving of the wealthy doesn’t impress God
  • Giving of the poor widow impresses Jesus greatly
  • Jesus cares a lot about widows

I hear stories from time to time about poor people and widows who have had their money taken by relatives, criminals and even pastors and church leaders. Widows are particularly vulnerable since they often don’t always know that much about money, and are distraught. Widows I have known have taken many years to recover from the emotional pain. They often look to religious leaders for help and guidance with life and their finances, yet leaders sometimes look out for their own interests. This is an important warning for those in ministry, whether professional or lay leaders.

The widow represents a perfect example of giving from the heart, and laying treasurers in heaven. In Matthew 6:19-21, we are told to build up treasures in heaven, and Matthew 6:25-33 tells us the Jesus cares and will provide for us. This widow exemplified giving to God and depending upon him to provide for her.

Jesus could see the amount of money that the rich and poor were depositing; he was sitting close to the place of offering and watched. Jesus does that today, he watches what we do with our money, how we spend and give. Are we depending upon him for our future, or are we too careful not to give too much?

C.S. Lewis, perhaps the best Christian apologist of the 20th Century, had some interesting comments about Christians and their generosity:

“Charity–Giving to the poor–is an essential part of Christian morality…I do not believe we can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.” Mere Christianity, bk. III, chap. 3, para. 7, pp. 81-82

Jesus cares a lot about the widow, he was so impressed with her giving that he wanted us to know that she had great treasure in store for her. And he wants to punish those who take advantage of widows. I stumbled upon a site on the Web that listed 200 Bible verses about widows and orphans, so it its apparent that God cares a lot for them and wants us not to exploit them, but to help him take care of them.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the twenty-eight post in this series.

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