Tuesday, April 1, 2014

PLACES OF HONOR (Luke Chapter 21)

The scribes loved “the places of honor” and before the naïve they possessed them (Luke 20:46).  They were the distinguished religious elite and wore long robes to prove it.  They were well received and greeted in the marketplace, the best seats in the synagogue and at the feasts were reserved for them.  Their lengthy prayers served to draw attention to their imagined religious superiority.  But it was all for show, there was no heart to their religion.  They were hypocrites--white-washed tombs filled with dead-men’s bones--and their lack of genuine love for God was made evident in their callous disregard for others.  “They devoured widow’s houses” (Luke 20:47).  Others might have been deceived by their religious pretense, but Jesus knew what was in their hearts.  He warned the people to beware (Luke 20:45-46).  The scribes were honored amongst men, but not before God.

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small coins” (Luke 21:1-2).  The rich gave gifts “out of their abundance, but “out her poverty (the poor widow) put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:4).

From a human perspective the poor widow’s gift didn’t amount to much.  Each of her two small coins were worth about 1/128th of a denarius (a denarius was the equivalent of a day’s wage for a laborer).  A paltry sum in comparison to the others.  The religious hypocrites of that day would sound a trumpet to draw attention to their giving of an offering (Matthew 6:2).  Trumpets might have sounded for other gifts that day, but not for hers.  The size of her gift was not noteworthy, but the spirit in which she gave it was.  She did not give to be noticed by men, she gave because she loved God.  No sacrifice was too great for the God whom she loved, even if demanded of her all that she had to give.  She was a woman of faith, she knew that He “who owns the cattle on a thousand hills” would provide again for her needs as He had done before for her in the past.  She gave all that she had as an act of worship.  Jesus commended her for it.

She gave in the same spirit as Jesus gave.  He did not come to be noticed by men, He came to do the bidding of His Father.  He did not give to be honored by men, His desire was to please the One who sent Him.  He did not give out of His riches, He gave and gave and when He had given all that He had in this life, He gave that up too.  “For you know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).  When it comes to the matter of giving His example reigns supreme.

The believers in Macedonia were commended by the Apostle Paul for the spirit in which they had given (2 Corinthians 8:1f).  They gave in a “poor widow like” manner.  They gave sacrificially (i.e. out of their poverty); joyously; generously; willingly; ‘beggingly’ (i.e. they begged for the privilege of giving); lovingly; and in a surprising fashion (2 Corinthians 8:2-5).  Why did they give as they did?  Paul explained, “They gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (2 Corinthians 8:5).  As with the poor widow, they gave as an act of worship.  Their hearts and lives and love already belonged to God (2 Corinthians 5:15).  They were Spirit-led to give in Christ-like manner that they might assist their Christian brethren in Jerusalem.

The scribes were honored by the naïve, but not by God.  They gave, but the hypocrisy of their religious was evidenced in their harsh treatment of the most vulnerable (i.e. widows).  The poor widow, on the other hand, was a woman of genuine faith.  No trumpet blew when she gave her gift, but God was well aware of her sacrifice.  With such sacrifices God is well-pleased, those who give them sit in true places of honor.

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