Faithlife Sermons

Session 5 The Poor Widow That Gives

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Introduction

Stewardship of our resources remains a sticking point for most church members. Financially, the average church member gives roughly 4% of their income towards his or her church. We tend to hold on to our money for our sakes instead of giving that portion of our lives to Christ and trusting Him to be enough.
Go to
Luke 12:13–15 ESV
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Deuteronomy 21:17 ESV
17 but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.
deuteronomy 21:17
Rabbis, as experts in the law, were sometimes called to resolve disputes. Jesus was considered a rabbi, why do you think He balked at the request to get involved here?
Though Jesus was Lord of the entire universe, he was careful not to become involved in matters that did not directly pertain to his earthly work and ministry, and he expected people to work out such things on their own.
For Jesus to treat a normally legitimate legal recourse here as a sign of greed seems to radically value relationships over property (see ).
Luke 6:29–30 ESV
29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.
What do you think Jesus was really addressing here?
Jesus addressed a more serious concern—a problem that lay at the heart of the dispute (and, no doubt, in the hearts of both disputants). The problem was greed, which at root is but one expression of a deeper pathology, worldliness.
Jesus explained that greed—the inordinate desire for “more”—is pointless because life does not consist of an abundance of possessions (12:15b). That is, life is to be about more than the “stuff” accumulated in this temporal existence.
There is another, transcendent existence that the “stuff” of this life is to serve. The “stuff” of this life must never become an end in itself.
If Christ’s people are consumed by him, they cannot yield to consumerism.
Look at ;
Look at ;
Ephesians 5:5 ESV
5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Colossians 3:5 ESV
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
But then he addresses the problematic attitude behind the dispute, warning, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed” (12:15). Paul calls greed “idolatry” (Eph 5:5; Col 3:5) because it places earthly possessions ahead of God in your life. In reality both brothers were focusing on their earthly wealth and consumed by greed, the one demanding the money, the other refusing to give it up. I know of an instance where two sisters turned their mother against their older sister so they could get the inheritance for themselves. It is too easy to be a wealthy parent and allow the inheritance to destroy the family. Jesus addresses both brothers but also the crowd as well, telling them, “Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” True life must center on eternal realities, not temporary affluence.
Do we place earthly possessions (or the pursuit of them) ahead of God in our lives?
Not making a legal judgment, Jesus did make a moral one. Your request shows how greedy you are, he told the man. Lay aside your greed. Think about life. What is most important to you? Money or relationship with God? Surely, your life is more important than what you own.
12:13–14. An anonymous member of the crowd interrupted Jesus. He set Jesus up as a human judge deciding inheritance rights. Jesus denied that he had any right to act in such a position. That belongs to the nation’s court system.
12:15. Not making a legal judgment, Jesus did make a moral one. Your request shows how greedy you are, he told the man. Lay aside your greed. Think about life. What is most important to you? Money or relationship with God? Surely, your life is more important than what you own.
Let’s move to
Luke 12:16–21 ESV
16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
What’s the moral of this parable? Compare to winning the lottery.
Riches have one major weakness. They have no purchasing power after death. They cannot buy the currency needed to get to heaven. Do not try to be rich in regard to the bank or barn. Be rich in relationship to God.
Riches have one major weakness. They have no purchasing power after death. They cannot buy the currency needed to get to heaven. Do not try to be rich in regard to the bank or barn. Be rich in relationship to God. Through prayer, study, obedience, and practice of the word, be sure you are part of the kingdom of God.
Through prayer, study, obedience, and practice of the word, be sure you are part of the kingdom of God.
12:21. This is not an exceptional case. It applies to anyone who trusts in riches. Riches have one major weakness. They have no purchasing power after death. They cannot buy the currency needed to get to heaven. Do not try to be rich in regard to the bank or barn. Be rich in relationship to God. Through prayer, study, obedience, and practice of the word, be sure you are part of the kingdom of God.
1 Timothy 6:10 ESV
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Is Jesus condemning wealth?
No. Jesus clearly warns his hearers concerning the dangerous eternal implications of wealth, with its seductive tendency toward complacency, self-sufficiency, and covetousness. Though the rich fool anticipates years of ease—a time to eat, drink, be merry—instead an eternal destiny apart from God awaits him. As Jesus’ condemning words confirm, “This night your soul is required of you.”
Ironically, the man who took such great care to prepare for his own (earthly) needs turns out to be a fool. Instead of fulfilling his moral responsibility to care for the needs of others, he is rebuked for laying up treasure for himself and for not being rich toward God.
Notice God was nowhere in the rich man’s plans.
Everything is about “me, myself, and I,” as we see in this and the ensuing verses. He ignores God and family in favor of himself.
James 4:13–17 ESV
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
The elevation of self above God is the very definition of greed. But what about ?
In his plans, God is left out of the picture, and it is about him: “What shall I do … I will tear down … and build … I will store … I’ll say to myself …” He commits the sin of the shallow Christian businessman in James 4:13–17 who plans only to go from town to town making money and forgets God in the process. The elevation of self above God is the very definition of greed. Again, there is a certain prudence when the harvest demands bigger barns. The plural “barns” shows the productivity of the harvest. He seems to be a wise businessman until we notice the self-centered nature of it all.
Ecclesiastes 8:15 ESV
15 And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.
“Eat, drink and be merry” stems from Ecclesiastes 8:15, where God’s people are told to consider this world as a gift from God meant to produce “enjoyment of life.” But he has turned it into selfish pleasure and polluted God’s gift. “Be merry” is euphrainomai, “enjoy the good life,” and that is all he lives for.
His conclusion proves that our suspicion about his true motive was correct: “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” His entire goal is self-indulgence rather than to use his largesse to help others or to serve God. His desire assumes the pleasure principle. In this story, no family or friends are mentioned, no one to share his plenty with or use it to help. He is all alone and wants it that way. “Eat, drink and be merry” stems from Ecclesiastes 8:15, where God’s people are told to consider this world as a gift from God meant to produce “enjoyment of life.” But he has turned it into selfish pleasure and polluted God’s gift. “Be merry” is euphrainomai, “enjoy the good life,” and that is all he lives for.
He has wasted his life and is truly a fool. This proves the old adage, “You can’t take it with you,” but it is also incredibly sad when you also can’t leave it for anyone to enjoy.
Matthew 6:19–21 ESV
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Wealth is not wrong, but it must be used for the glory of God and to help the needy. This is what Jesus means by becoming “rich toward God.” When God blesses us with wealth, it means he is calling us to a ministry of sharing.
The central question is whether we live our lives for self or for God. There is an empty eternity awaiting anyone who “stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (v. 21). This seemingly successful man stored entirely the wrong thing and lost everything for all eternity. To store up treasure is incredibly important, but we must heed the warning of Matthew 6:19–21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth … but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Wealth is not wrong, but it must be used for the glory of God and to help the needy. This is what Jesus means by becoming “rich toward God.” When God blesses us with wealth, it means he is calling us to a ministry of sharing.
12:18 Wealthy landowners often lived in cities or on estates while impoverished tenant farmers worked their land. Excavations show that the landowners often built large silos to hold excess grain. Scripture warned against merely storing grain when others were hungry (Pr 11:26).
12:19 eat, drink and be merry. Echoes Isa 22:13, where one celebrates today, deliberately neglecting the impending reckoning with death that is coming tomorrow. Epicurean philosophers were criticized as advocating this lifestyle, but it characterized many people who could afford it.
Let’s go to
Luke 21:1–4 ESV
1 Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
The scene is still in the temple courts, and Jesus is watching the wealthy place their monetary gifts in thirteen trumpet-like receptacles placed against the wall in the court of women. Each one was labeled, for instance, “shekel dues,” “bird offerings,” and so on. You could hear people announce to the priest in attendance what they were giving, and they made sure the coins made as much noise as possible so all around would know of their largesse.
How does relate to this?
21:1–4 The Widow’s Offering. The point of this story is that God measures gifts not by their size but on the basis of how much of a sacrifice it was to give them and how sincere and selfless the heart was that gave the gift. offering box. One of the 13 collection chests in the temple, with trumpet-like openings (Mishnah, Shekalim 6.5). The two small copper coins were about one centimeter in diameter.
Matthew 6:3 ESV
3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
The key is to give not out of a sense of duty or so people know you are pious but to give out of gratitude for all God has given you.
Then the lowly widow comes by and gives a mere “two very small copper coins,” or lepta (12:59), the smallest coin minted, worth one-eighth of a cent, or one-sixty-fourth of a denarius (a day’s wage).
In complete contrast to the scribes who cheat poor people like her, the widow in this passage gives all her small savings to God. What better proof can there be of her total trust in the Lord! The scene is still in the temple courts, and Jesus is watching the wealthy place their monetary gifts in thirteen trumpet-like receptacles placed against the wall in the court of women. Each one was labeled, for instance, “shekel dues,” “bird offerings,” and so on. You could hear people announce to the priest in attendance what they were giving, and they made sure the coins made as much noise as possible so all around would know of their largesse. Then the lowly widow comes by and gives a mere “two very small copper coins,” or lepta (12:59), the smallest coin minted, worth one-eighth of a cent, or one-sixty-fourth of a denarius (a day’s wage).
Jesus immediately tells those near him, “This poor widow has put in more than all the others” (21:3). He is not saying that their gifts are invalid, only that hers is the greater sacrifice and thus the higher gift. This is clear in the following verse. The true measure of a gift is how much sacrifice it involves. Their gift had little sacrifice, for they “gave their gifts out of their wealth.” It is not the amount given but the heart behind it that matters. These wealthy people hardly thought about it as they gave, while she “out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Only love could have produced such self-sacrifice.
As I have said, this does not mean God refuses to accept the gifts of the wealthy. The key is to give not out of a sense of duty or so people know you are pious but to give out of gratitude for all God has given you. Moreover, don’t give as little as possible but as much as you can. The statistics on giving in the average church are totally embarrassing. Many churches in affluent areas have almost no one even tithing—that is, giving 10 percent of their income. They are all spending what they have on themselves. They are all the rich fool of 12:13–21.
Look at the hypocrisy of the scribes, who live for human accolades and care only for the attention they can receive and at the same time are filled with avarice and greed. In complete contrast, the poor widow gives all she has to God and trusts him implicitly (21:1–4). That is a huge lesson for us all.
The question about paying taxes to Caesar (vv. 20–26) was another attempt to trap Jesus and turn the people against him, but once more he turns the tables on them. What we learn from this is that Caesar and secular government have their place in God’s economy and deserve our respect and support. God rules over them but uses them in this world, and so they deserve our tax support and submission.
The Sadducees’ story of the woman married to seven childless brothers in a row (vv. 27–40) was a further attempt to thwart Jesus, this time his belief in the resurrection of the dead. To them the thought of a woman married to seven men at the same time in heaven was ridiculous and showed how illogical the doctrine of an afterlife was. Jesus, however, showed their own lack of knowledge of scriptural truth, showing that in heaven we will be like the angels and will not be married or bear children. Once again he prevailed, and this time the scribes capitulated and recognized his superior knowledge (vv. 39–40).
Look at the hypocrisy of the scribes, who live for human accolades and care only for the attention they can receive and at the same time are filled with avarice and greed. In complete contrast, the poor widow gives all she has to God and trusts him implicitly (21:1–4). That is a huge lesson for us all.
Jesus’ reasoning is simple. The rich gave from their abundance, leaving much more for themselves. The widow gave from abject poverty, leaving nothing for herself. They gave out of discretionary funds. She gave her bread money.
21:1. In the temple, teaching as usual during these final days, Jesus noticed the rich dropping their offerings into the temple coffers. The way they did it, one could hardly fail to notice them. They did this as they prayed (20:47) for show, to be seen by others.
Giving is judged by the degree of sacrifice.
21:2. Jesus did not focus on the rich. He zeroed in on a poor widow. She had two lepta, each worth about one one-hundredth of a denarius, the coin used for a day laborer’s daily wage. Thus, her contribution to the temple was tiny in terms of monetary value.
21:3. But her two lepta had spiritual power. They form the subject for teaching Christian stewardship to this day. Why are they so important? Jesus valued these “worthless” coins as worth more than all the rich people had put in.

Application

21:4. Jesus’ reasoning is simple. The rich gave from their abundance, leaving much more for themselves. The widow gave from abject poverty, leaving nothing for herself. They gave out of discretionary funds. She gave her bread money. Giving is judged by the degree of sacrifice.
When we ask Jesus to intervene in our lives, it is born from purely selfish desires?
All of our earthly goods are temporal
The gift and the giver are rewarded by the Lord when such an act is formed from a heart of love, not duty.
What are you doing in your life that moves you towards the philosophy Jesus stated in ?
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