Read Mark 12:41-44
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:3, NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 205: Poor Widow. If there is one thing that is consistent about all accounts of Jesus in the Gospels, it is that he consistently showed favor and deference to those who were “the least of these.” We need to be careful in how we read/hear that. I am not saying that “the least of these” were always the poor, the homeless, the oppressed, etc. To read that into it would be to expose our own biases. Some of the richest people can be “the least of these”.
We have already seen cases of that in our readings. In fact, it is safe to say that being rich can really be a place of spiritual and emotional poverty. Jesus recognized this and when that type of the “least of these” were humbled by that poverty and realized their need for God, Christ brought healing and wholeness into their lives as well. What we need to remember is that “the least of these” come in every shape and size; there is no “one size fits all”.
What’s more, in all cases it is humility that leads to healing and wholeness. Rich or poor, the proud always find themselves in a place of needing to be humbled, whereas those who are humble recognize their need for God. We certainly see this in the poor widow, whom Jesus observes giving the last bit of money she has in order to tithe. In reality, she does not tithe for a tithe is merely a tenth of what one possesses. This woman gave 100%, even though she needed it for her own sustenance. Think about the kind of faith that she had to give the last money she had to God. That is why Jesus highlighted what she was doing and honored her gift with his words to his disciples.
But Jesus’ teaching to his disciples was not meant to just highlight the poor widow. It would be easy to prop her up as the “the least of these” and dismiss the other reason for pointing her out. In fact, while this woman was certainly the “least of these” in terms of her finances, she was actually the “greatest of these” spiritually speaking. Make no mistake, in terms of her faith and stewardship, this woman was embodying the kingdom of Heaven.
The REAL poverty was seen in those who have much but were only giving what was required. They were not giving out of their joy and gratitude toward God; rather, they were giving out of an obligatory duty that was required to them by the law. They wanted to maintain the appearance of being good, faithful people, but they were not fooling Jesus with the charade.
This should challenge us to learn from Jesus’ comparison between the “poor” widow and the obligatory tithers. It should challenge us to find be in a place of humility when we self-reflect in what ways we truly are “the least of these” in need of God’s hope, healing, and wholeness. Do we give of what we have out a sense of obligation or out of joy and gratitude toward what God has given us?
Everything we have is a gift from God. The poor widow understood that and gave all that she had back to God, trusting that God would not fail her nor forsake her. We are being called to see everything we have as a gift from God, rather than looking at what we have as OURS to give. After all, what is truly ours when our very lives were given to us by the One who created us and has redeemed us through the immeasurable sacrifice of death on a cross? Let us be like the poor widow and celebrate our LORD through generous, joyful giving!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“There’s poverty in wealth. If a man is wealthy without good health, is he not poor? If a man is wealthy without children, is he not poor? If a man is wealthy without God, is he not poor? If a man is wealthy without giving alms, is he not poor? If a man is wealthy without wisdom, is he not poor? Then there’s a great lack in riches.” – Michael Bassey Johnson
Lord, help me rid myself of the ways in which I am impoverished. Help me to store up my treasures in you. Amen.