I have recently started attending Elevation Church Winston-Salem. (Woo, WOO!). After deciding that I wanted to continue attending, I also decided it was time to get involved in one of their small groups which they call E-groups. Being unemployed and not wanting to make the hour long drive to Winston twice a week, my options were kind of slim. Until the “Seek and Pursue” E-group opened up in King. YAY! I have been twice now and I am already amazed at the friendship and Christian love extended by these people.
But last night, we were talking about a Bible story. It’s a story that I’ve seen hundreds of times and it’s a story that Holly Furtick spoke on during the special Mother’s Day sermon. It is the story of the widow’s mite. Now you get it!This story can be found in Luke. It kind of starts in chapter 20, verse 45 and runs through 21:4.
““And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.””
I’ve heard this story before, if you’ve been in church more than a month you’ve probably heard this story before. But while I sat in the inviting circle of my E-group last night, an interesting thought occurred to me.
In 20:47, the Bible says that the leaders of the church “devour widows’ houses”. The English Standard Version Study Bible specifies that this probably means they were taking up all the money of the widows as they worked as the “executors of their estates”. Disgusting right? We would identify the first lesson of this section of Scripture as this: don’t be like the scribes!
Then we get into the actual lesson part of the story we’ve heard so many times. She gave all she had! The second lesson is this: do be like the woman! But we need to peel the onion.
Luke makes sure to specify that this isn’t just any kind of woman. She was, in fact, “a poor widow”. Let’s break this down. This woman, was a widow. What did we just learn about widows in verse 47 of chapter 20? We learned that they were losing all of their wealth because of the church leaders. So these two small copper coins that she donated were likely all she had left after being robbed blind by the church leaders. The church leaders are the reason she isn’t just a widow…but “a poor widow”.
So what does she do with her two remaining coins? Does she hoard them? Does she invest them? Does she buy herself some stale bread? Nope. She goes right out and donates it. Beautiful story! The end! The footnote for this verse says 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.” It was definitely sincere and selfless. But how sincere and selfless?
This woman was a widow. In their dealings with her and her estate, the church had made her a poor widow. This poor widow took the two, one centimeter diameter coins that she had left to her name and donated them. To the church.
Whoa. Don’t miss that, because it blew my my mind last night. She didn’t just give sincerely and selflessly…she gave sincerely and selflessly to the organization that had made her poor in the first place. The church that was commanded to take care of widows had left her poor, and she still obeyed God’s commands to give selflessly and sincerely.
Have you been hurt by the church? Because I know I have. I also know that I am a pro at holding a grudge! But the church, no matter how messed up, is still the body of Christ and the family of believers. We cannot see the way the church treats us as the way God treats us; and we can’t see the way we treat the church as independent from the way we respond to God.
When they slap your left cheek, offer them the right one.
When they ask for your shirt, give them your jacket too.
When they take everything you have, give them the last bit left.
Because it isn’t really going to them…it’s going to Him.