Pastor David’s devotional for March 31,2021
41 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. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
It is holy week, the week we remember the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. It is a time when we prepare ourselves for the great Easter celebration. Spending time in worship on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, thinking about Jesus’ sacrifice, is one way we prepare ourselves. For Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to be times of preparation, it is important that we do more than just show up for worship. How we approach those services is important, and that brings us to the story of the poor widow.
The scene was simple. Jesus and his disciples were in the Courtyard of the Temple. Jesus was teaching his disciples as they “people watched.” There was a long list of characters reported in the story: Chief Priests, legal experts, Elders, Pharisees, spies for King Herod, Sadducees, and rich people. The poor widow was the last of the long list of characters to enter the scene.
Prior to her entry, the long list of characters approached Jesus. Each had their own set of beliefs and motives. Their beliefs did not align with Jesus’ life and teaching. One of the truths of the story is repeated with each of the characters: they were unwilling to conform their beliefs to the teachings of Jesus. So, rather than change, they tried to trick him into saying something they could use against him.
Have you ever known people who, though Christian, were unwilling to conform their beliefs to Jesus’ teaching? Today, we cannot try to trick Jesus, but we can trick ourselves by trying to conform Jesus’ teachings to what we believe. We see people doing this all the time: making Jesus fit their beliefs, rather than changing their beliefs to fit with Jesus’ teaching. It is easy to do and happens all the time. It happens with politics as people force Jesus to conform to their political ideologies rather than conforming their politics to Jesus. It happens as people justify bad habits, use of money, time, and resources. It happens as people deny the existence of racism and oppression. It happens in big ways, and in subtle ways.
As human beings, we can convince ourselves of most anything. We can become zealous for causes that are contrary to the Gospel, and we can deceive ourselves to think we are the ones who KNOW the truth—meaning those with whom we disagree are wrong. Approaching Good Friday believing WE know the truth, that WE know what is best, is the stuff that led to Jesus’ crucifixion. In this story, all the characters were convinced they knew the truth. So, they ignored what Jesus, the very Word of God, had to say. It happens all the time. Even among Christians.
Enter the poor widow. She approached in humility, simply offering what she had to be used by God. Her sense of humility and sacrifice did not go unnoticed by Jesus! He made it clear that out of all the characters in the story, it was the humble woman of sacrifice who was an example.
As I approach Good Friday, I have this story on my mind. Are there times when I fall into the sin of arrogance, believing I know more than I do? Are there times when I trick myself into believing I know best, when it comes to living life? Are there times when I try to make Jesus conform to me, rather than allowing Jesus to change me? These are important questions for me to wrestle with. Maybe they are for you too. Certainly, Holy Week reminds us of what can happen when arrogance gets a hold of our lives. People get hurt. Relationships suffer. No wonder the poor widow serves as an example. She simply approached the Temple of God with humility and sacrifice.
Humility and sacrifice open us up to be changed by Jesus. Humility and sacrifice are the content of love, the requirements of unity, and our hope for peace.
God bless you and stay well.