Learning from the Widow in Luke 21

We were in Indy last week visiting family, and we heard a really insightful short talk on a Wednesday night. The brother reminded us of a familiar passage in Luke 21 about the poor widow who gave her last two coins to God.  What the brother then said was to take out the chapter and verse divisions in the Bible and read the end of Luke 20 and then read about the widow in Luke 21. So I put the text here for you to read.

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.”
(Luke 20:45-21:4)

The question was posed – I wonder how this widow ended up with only two coins? One really good explanation for the state of her poverty was that the Jewish leadership had “devoured” it. Instead of supporting the widows, they took advantage of them in their time of distress. Again, if you read the text straight through it sure sounds like that is the explanation for this widow’s condition. It also may explain how the “rich” in that context had so much excess of money to put into the treasury.

This concept of devouring widow’s houses is not just in Luke. Here are some other passages that address this social injustice (Isaiah 10:2; Jeremiah 7:6-10; Ezekiel 22:7; Amos 8:4-6; Micah 2:2,8; 3:1-3; Mark 12:40; 2 Timothy 3:6). These hypocritical, narcissistic Jewish leaders were even doing this garbage to their own parents (Mark 7; Matthew 15). When we take time to read passages like the ones in this paragraph, we can see how strongly God feels about it.

But that is not really the point of this article, nor was it the point of the brother who was giving that short talk. When you consider the state of things, the injustice that was going on, and the poverty of this woman, are you not impressed with her heart for God? Even in the midst of great poverty, knowing these two coins were “all” she had to live on, she still gave it all to God. Her heart was not filled with bitterness and rage against those who oppressed her, nor was she angry about her state in life. She loved God and was happy to give Him her all.

What a woman!

Because You Have Done This

So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
(Genesis 22:14-18)

“Because you have done this” – That statement could be in between a bad choice leading to a awful consequence, but for Abraham it was quite the opposite. Abraham made a choice to obey God even when it would cost him his son Isaac. Because Abraham made this choice to obey God even through extreme sacrifice of what he held most dear, God would richly bless him and his family for generations to come.

We studied this chapter last night in a Bible study at someone’s home, and it really caused us to reflect upon the faith and trust that Abraham had in God’s promises. That trust in God’s promises led him to the conclusion that if he killed Isaac, then God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). He knew that God would provide, even if Abraham gave up the very things God promised him.

What a great example for leaders of homes, and what an encouragement to know that if we make the commitment to follow God fully, God will be there in our homes blessing us and providing us with wisdom and strength. Abraham said, “The Lord will provide,” and that is just as true for us today as it was for Abraham. Our job is to fully obey His voice. The calling for us is the same as it was for Abraham; don’t withhold anything from God. Don’t let anything be so valuable to us that we would not give it over to Jesus.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
(James 2:19-24)

The Lord is able to give you much more than this

Then Amaziah assembled the men of Judah and set them by fathers’ houses under commanders of thousands and of hundreds for all Judah and Benjamin. He mustered those twenty years old and upward, and found that they were 300,000 choice men, fit for war, able to handle spear and shield. He hired also 100,000 mighty men of valor from Israel for 100 talents of silver. But a man of God came to him and said, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.” And Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?” The man of God answered, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this.” Then Amaziah discharged the army that had come to him from Ephraim to go home again. And they became very angry with Judah and returned home in fierce anger.
(2 Chronicles 25:5-10)

King Amaziah is said by the Scripture to have done “what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart” (2 Chronicles 25:2).

As we see in the above passage, Amaziah tried to hire 100,000 soldiers from their evil neighbors to the north, the nation of Israel. God sent a prophet (a man of God) to tell him, “Don’t do that!”

An interesting exchange happened between King Amaziah and the man of God. The King asked, “But what about the money I’ve just invested?” What is the response of God through the prophet?

“The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”

What a powerful statement. Amaziah was concerned about money and what he would lose. God is concerned with obedience and trust in His provision.

King Amaziah had invested cash in soldiers from a wicked nation. Clearly he had not asked God’s advice on this prior to taking this action. So, now he has a choice, doesn’t he?

Do I follow my current course because I do not want to lose out on my investment? What will happen when I tell those Israelite soldiers to go back home? Will they get angry?

Or do I trust that if I follow God, He will more than provide for anything I have lost in investing in the ways of sin?

This is not to say that if we walk away from our sinful path that God is going to send piles of cash and prosperity our way as a reward. But He has certainly promised to provide for us abundantly if we forsake the ways of the world to follow Him. That provision most likely will have little to do with material wealth, but God’s provision (in whatever form that takes) is of infinitely better value than any temporary payoff here on earth (Hebrews 11:24-26).

So, what happens if:

  • We as a congregation have invested lots of time, money and energy into a program, course of action, or “ministry” that we later find out through study has no Biblical authority? Walk away from it, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”
  • We as individuals have devoted our lives and resources into a pathway that has taken us away from God? What about the things we will lose when we walk away? “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”

Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
(Luke 18:28-30)

It Has Been Fully Reported

And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:11-12).

Ruth was from Moab; she was an outsider, a Gentile. When she was shown such great kindness and generosity by Boaz, she was overwhelmed with gratitude. But she was also puzzled…why me?

So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10).

Ruth’s humility here is evident. Her whole mindset was to serve God and work hard to take care of Naomi and herself. She didn’t expect a parade for her service, nor did she expect this bountiful treatment from Boaz. Ruth was perfectly content to get dirty and sweaty working in the fields to get just enough for two widows to survive.

However, Boaz kindly reminds her of why she was being so treated.

“It has been fully reported to me…”

The behavior of Ruth got people talking. Ruth’s commitment first and foremost was to serve the Lord God. She left Moab, her family in Moab and her gods in Moab to come under the sheltering wings of the great I AM. Secondly, her life was but to serve Naomi and to make sure Naomi was provided for.

Ruth’s manner of life got the attention of the people of Israel, and word eventually came to Boaz. He was greatly impressed and I believe he was encouraged by such behavior. It seems like Boaz saw himself as one of God’s instruments in helping provide for Ruth and Naomi. Boaz knew full well that God was pleased with the commitment of Ruth, and he was convinced that the Lord would repay her for her work (Ruth 2:12).

The same is true for us today as God’s people. If our mindset is the praise of men, we will get our reward, Jesus said. When our heart is all about the reward and the material goods, we will get our reward (Matthew 6:1-4). But when our hearts are set on heaven as was the heart of Ruth, heaven takes notice.

Jesus Himself observed this kind of behavior in a poor widow. He watched how the rich people were giving large sums to the temple treasury, but what really grabbed His attention was the two coins given by a widow who gave all she had. Those two coins didn’t make much of a sound when they dropped in the container, but they thundered in heaven (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4). Ruth’s service was just like that…God took notice of her and used Boaz to take care of her.

Let us reflect on our own service to God. If our hearts are like the heart of Ruth, then heaven will take notice. And really, it doesn’t matter if anyone else notices if God is the one who sees it.

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister (Hebrews 6:10).

Better Than Sacrifice

Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15:22).

God calls us to worship Him, no doubt. But God also said over and over in Scripture that He desires some things more than our worship. Provided below is a listing of many passages on this principle for your study and reflection.

Better Than Sacrifice – Old Testament

Psalm 50 – It would be helpful to read this whole Psalm! “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God” (vs 23). God wants us to be thankful and obedient when we worship.

Psalm 51:16-17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. God wants our hearts to be broken before Him.

Proverbs 21:3 – To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice (See also Proverbs 15:8; 21:27; 28:9)

Ecclesiastes 5:1-5- Draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools. Keep your word when you promise Him something.

Isaiah 1:11-17 – God “hated” and “despised” their sacrifices because of their wicked lives. He told them to cease to do evil, and learn to do good. They needed to repent and wash themselves, and then worship Him.

Jeremiah 6:20; 7:9-11,22-24 – God asked for the purpose of their worship. God’s house had become a den of thieves. Jesus quoted this passage in Matthew 21:13. See also Jeremiah 11:15.

Hosea 6:6 – I desire mercy and not sacrifice. Jesus twice quoted this passage (Matthew 9:13; 12:7).

Amos 5:21-24 – Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. Just as in Isaiah, God hated their worship and wanted them to stop it. He wanted to see justice and righteousness in their lives first.

Micah 6:6-8 – We may want to offer the Lord “thousands of rams” and “ten thousand rivers of oil.” We might even want to offer our own child to Him. But what does the Lord require of us but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God?

Zechariah 7:5 – Did you really fast for Me, for Me?

Malachi – Just read the book of Malachi, and you will see several examples of people worshipping God, but with corrupt motives and impure lives. God deserves and expects better than that.

Better Than Sacrifice – New Testament

Matthew 5:23-24 – First be reconciled to your brother, then offer your gift to God. Our relationships with others matter! How effective is our worship when we are at odds with the brother in the next pew?

Matthew 6 – When we fast, pray and give alms, Jesus wants a heart of humility. Don’t put on a concert for others to see your righteousness.

Matthew 15:7-9 & John 4:23-24 – God wants our obedience, that we worship Him in truth. He also wants our hearts, that we worship Him in spirit.

Matthew 23:23 – According to Jesus, there are weightier matters of the law like justice, mercy and faith.

Mark 12:32-34 – Loving God with all your heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.

Romans 12:1-2 – We are to be a living sacrifice.

1 Corinthians 11:28 – But a man must examine himself…then partake of the Lord’s Supper.

Hebrews 13:15-16 – Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Did you see a consistent pattern in all of those passages? Men, as we consider our worship to God, we must also reflect upon our heart, our character, our behavior and how we treat others.

He Saved Her Life as a Baby

Today I want to share with you a news video of a police officer who celebrated a girl’s high school graduation.

Here is the summary from Inside Edition:

Cop Celebrates Graduation of Baby He Saved From Gunshot to Face 17 Years Ago:

“For nearly two decades, retired officer Randy Sutton has been Jacqueline Martinez’s guardian angel. Together, they celebrated the teenager’s high school graduation. 17 years ago, Sutton saved Jacqueline’s life following a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. He wasn’t responding to the scene, rather passing by when he saw the commotion. That’s when he saw Jacqueline; just a baby at the time shot in the face. Sutton gave Jacqueline who wasn’t breathing mouth to mouth.”

This video causes me to reflect on so many things, but I want to mention three for today:

  1. Thank you to the police officers, firefighters and all first responders that lay their lives down on the line every single day for our safety.
  2. Think of the sacrifices that others made for you when you were young that allowed you to be who you are today. Think of how others gave of their time, energy, money, advice, tears and prayers for you. Just like that young lady was able to graduate this year because of what a stranger did for her when she was a baby -we are who we are and where we are today because of the sacrifices of others in our lives.
  3. Consider your impact on others in your life. Think of those in your church family that may be struggling right now: how can you reach into their lives and help encourage them to grow stronger in their faith? Just like this “off-duty” police officer, we must always be on the watch; we must always have our eyes open around us to see those who could use our encouragement and help (Hebrews 3:13).

And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh (Jude 1:22-23).

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).