The Widow’s Offering

We are meditating on the last week before the crucifixion of Christ. The Lord listened and answered wisely the sly, scheming questions of the chief priests, teachers of the law, and Sadducees (Luke 20:1-47). What shocks the common people the most was to hear Jesus oppose and condemn the teachers of the law:

45While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46“Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely” (Luke 20:45-47).

The teachers of the law held themselves out to be the model of those most likely to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but Jesus singled them out for a warning of the direst consequences. Instead of being kind to the poor and lending to the Lord (Proverbs 19:17), these religious men were robbing those who were the most vulnerable of society, the widows (v. 47). Unfortunately, the translators put a chapter division into the middle of Luke’s words, separating the widow’s offering from the context of the Lord’s condemnation of the teachers of the law, but Mark puts the two passages together (Mark 12:38-44).

1As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3“I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:1-4).

What do you think was the woman’s reasoning for giving up all on which she had to live? There are two ways we can look at this passage. We will look at one today and the other tomorrow:

1) This passage of Scripture is placed in the middle of Jesus’ speaking judgment against a corrupt religious system. Immediately after talking about the poor widow, Jesus again prophesies judgment against the temple and the ongoing corruption. Perhaps, this widow was one whose house had been “devoured” (Luke 20:47). It gives us a view of the way people were put under compulsion into giving to a religious system that was far away from the heart of God. At the time of Christ, a widow was not provided for by social services. Having no husband meant that she had no pension plan and no income or visible means of support, yet here she is giving her only means on which to live. Some would say that it is a wonderful picture of a giving heart, but another way that we can look at this story is that of a corrupt system that manipulated those who, at a vulnerable time of their lives, were being taken advantage of instead of cared for in their old age. It is true that God honors a giving heart and those who give to Him in faith, but that does not mean that He was pleased with the corrupt religious system. It grieved the heart of God to see people manipulated and forced by guilt to give what they could not afford to enrich a religious system that was not reflecting the Father’s heart but, rather, swindling the poor and the widows.

There are those in our time, as well as then, who will find ways to take advantage of people in their old age. Older people can be “easy prey,” and they can be bilked out of their savings, sometimes taking from them all they have saved, convincing them that it is God’s will. God has a special love for the widows and orphans and will judge harshly those who oppress them (Malachi 3:5). Religion is an easy way for unscrupulous people to use the fear of God and guilt to convince people to give. You have probably seen this happen in the media and even in popular ministries today.

It is troubling to see people use the Word of God in this way, i.e. to manipulate people for their own ends. Some time ago, Christianity Today magazine shared the case reported to the police of a popular evangelist sending a solicitation letter to a person, telling him that, if he didn’t give to his ministry, Satan would hit him with “bad things,” and that he would “wish that he had never been born.” On the other hand, if he responded with a monetary gift, he could expect creative miracles and healings and his finances would come alive again.[1] Let us be reminded again of Jesus’ words to those who were devouring widow’s houses that “Such men will be punished most severely” (Luke 20:47).

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 55. Luke 21:1-11: Signs of Christ’s Second Coming. Keith Thomas

[1] https://bible.org/article/they-devour-widows-houses

Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

We are continuing our meditation of the last week before Christ’s crucifixion, and specifically today on Jesus coming to Jerusalem as Messiah.

41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:41-44).

As He rounded the bend on the top of the Mount of Olives, the view of the city of Jerusalem is one of the most spectacular in this world. One literally looks down on the Temple Mount from the top of the Mount of Olives. At the sight of the city below Him, the Messiah of Israel looked upon the city and wept uncontrollably. To cry in a normal way, the Greek word dakruo would have been used, but here the Greek word translated into English as “wept” is klaio, the strongest word in Greek. His body was heaving with intense sobbing and grief. Instead of what most people expected to happen, the Mount of Olives splitting in two (Zechariah 14:3), and all the angels appearing to execute judgment on Israel’s enemies, Christ sobbed while all the people cheered ecstatically.

The reason Jesus was loudly wailing, we are told, is found in verse 44; Israel did not recognize the time of God’s coming. As a nation, they did not see their need of a healer for their sin problem. Spiritual blindness concerning our need for a Savior from sin will keep us from receiving salvation. They wanted a king who would lead them into battle against the Romans. Jesus was peering into the future and saw the inevitable result of their resistance to the loving arms of the Savior. He saw the coming judgment of the nation with a Roman embankment being set up and the stones of the Temple being torn down one by one.

In A.D. 66, the Jews revolted against Roman control. Three years later, Titus, son of the Roman emperor Vespasian, was sent to crush the rebellion. Rome laid siege to Jerusalem and in A.D. 70. They entered the weakened city and set fire to it. History records that Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled to the letter. The Romans set up a barricade around the city and starved the city into submission. When they entered the city after killing most of the occupants (over six hundred thousand Jews were slaughtered), they set fire to the Temple and much of the city, before pulling down every stone of the Temple area to get at the gold that had melted from the temple structure.

This happened just as Jesus prophesied. In speaking of Jerusalem, He foretold, “They will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” The Romans made an example of Jerusalem as a witness to other cities of what could happen to those that rebelled against Rome. The thought I leave with you today, is to not recognize your need of a Savior for your sin-debt, is to court disaster and judgment—receive His grace today. Cry out to Him for His salvation.

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 52. Luke 19:28-48, The King Comes to His Temple. Keith Thomas

The Unsaved Will Be Judged According to the Light They Have Received.

We are continuing from yesterday our meditation about the topic of Hell (scroll below for previous meditations).

I believe that there are different degrees of punishment in hell. Chuck Swindoll has something to say about the degrees of retribution:

There will always be some who will not have as much divine input as others. Because that is true, I believe there will be degrees of eternal punishment. Before you pick up stones to stone me, look closely at the words of Jesus:

47That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:47-48).

Let’s understand that no one without Christ spends eternity in heaven. But the specifics of how God handles those who are without Christ because they heard so little might very well be answered by the idea of degrees of punishment. But we do know for sure that heaven will not be their home.[1]

Do you think that the degree of influence one has on earth has any bearing on their eternity? I believe so. The greater the influence one has, the greater the accountability and responsibility for that influence. There are people who are in the media’s spotlight who are role models for our young, yet they are living immoral lives. They will be judged more strictly due to their influence over many. Don’t be quick to jump into positions of influence over others. Jesus said for us to take the plank out of our own eyes so that we can take the sliver out of other people’s eyes (Matthew 7:3-5). Every one of us who are Christians are already in a position of influence, especially if you are known in your neighborhood or workplace as a Christian. People are watching you to see how you live your life. Their eternity depends on their response to the message of Christ that can be read from what you say and what you do. We are all teaching to a certain degree, but we are not all teachers. For a teacher, it is crucial to live a life honoring to God:

1Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1).

At the judgment, Christian leaders will be judged more strictly due to the amount of light that they have received and their influential position. Even those who are without Christ, the greater their influence rises, so does the level of accountability. It makes sense that just as there would be different levels of reward for the righteous, there will be differing levels of punishment for those in Hell as well. My prayer is that you consider if you are living according to the light you have received. To whom much is given, much is expected. Place your trust in the Lord Jesus—do it today!

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Deep in the Christian Life, Published by Multnomah Press, 1987. Page 324.