It’s my privilege and honor to introduce you to the author of this guest post that will most likely challenge you in a great way. Marc Dejeu is the Pastor of The SOMA Gathering in Beaver Falls Pennsylvania.
The love he has for people is evident by the way he lives. He has been family to me since 6th grade. My life wouldn't look the same without him. Enjoy this look at the widow who gave all she had through a lens you may never have.
We’ve got a few stories in the Gospels familiar to many of us, both in their telling and in their meaning. Even if you’re not a ‘church rat’ (born in the third pew, grew up going to church once on Wednesday & twice on Sunday), you’ve probably heard the generosity-inspiring tale of the poor widow giving away her last two copper coins. It’s a familiar story and, while its meaning seems clear, it’s possible that there’s more to what Jesus is telling us when he sends the disciples’ attention her way. In Mark’s gospel, the story reads:
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on’ (Mark 12:41-44).
Read on its own, and with a bent toward moralization (finding simple, applicable life lessons in the Scriptures), we can make easy sense of what Jesus is getting at: it’s not about how much you give, but rather how sacrificially you give, that pleases God. The poor widow becomes for us, then, an example Jesus wants us to follow. If we think we’re giving generously, but it’s not everything, we’ve got a long way to go before we reach the status of this poor widow.
In this interpretation, I do appreciate the acknowledgment of the upside-down nature of the Reign of God that Jesus ushered in. In fact, throughout Jesus’ time on earth, folks on the margins are lifted up and exemplified in startling and deeply challenging ways. And while there is likely an element of that here, I think Jesus’ point goes deeper. It goes beyond individualism and into the sin-soaked systems and structures of the day.
When we look at this story within its situation, Jesus points out the poor widow’s giving in the context of words of warning. In 12:38-40, he says:
Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show they make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.
And from here he sat to watch the people put their money into the temple treasury, the very means by which the teachers of the law were devouring widows’ houses. And then a poor widow, in a living example of the kind of injustice Jesus was just talking about, puts everything she owns into that treasury.
And Jesus sees it.
And he does so by pointing out the injustice when he says, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others…she put in everything, all she had to live on.’
I tell you the truth is always Jesus’ introduction into a prophetic word – he’s speaking truth to power now. Is it possible that Jesus wasn’t celebrating the widows’ generosity, but was rather lamenting the brokenness of a religious system that would celebrate the wealthy for giving lots from their excess and not bat an eye when a vulnerable woman, deep in the margins of society, now has nothing to live on? And this because of the religious system?
Let’s try to apply that story now.
If it’s true that Jesus was giving words of warning and drawing his followers attention to the brokenness of a structure (the Temple) created to glorify God and care for his people, let’s assume he’s still doing that same thing today. Let’s assume that anything done in God’s name that further victimizes our brothers and sisters who already suffer outside the circle is not something that pleases God.
But what if that ministry is thriving? Isn’t that a sign of God’s blessing?
As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’ ‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’
By God’s grace he won’t let those systems, those structures, those harmful things done in his name last forever. In the meantime, may we be the kind of people who pay attention when Jesus says, ‘I tell you the truth…’
Marc Dejeu, Pastor
Jesse and Kara Birkey
Jesse and Kara Birkey are committed lovers of Jesus who seek to show others the extraordinary life of Jesus is available for everyone. They have authored two books, been featured in films and seek to serve the Lord in whatever ways they can. Follow their blog here.
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Life Resurrected, Extraordinary Miracles through Ordinary People has been endorsed by Sid Roth and Mark Virkler and is a collection of inspiring stories making it clear that the extraordinary life of Jesus is available to all who love Him. It’s also the testimony of Jesse’s life, the road he travelled bringing him into the arms of Jesus. Get the paperback here. Get the Kindle Version Here. View the trailer here.
Marriage What’s the Point? One couple finds meaning in a crazy mess is the story of their marriage—The tragedy and the restoration. They bear their hearts in an attempt to get others to bear theirs and finally receive the freedom they’ve longed for. Get the paperback here. Get the Kindle Version Here.