Posts tagged offering
The story of the widow’s offering is one of the most powerful in the Bible. It only takes up 4 verses in the book of Mark, but it has had a significant impact on how we view giving and generosity in the Church. Here is a woman who most people were totally ignoring – a poor widow – but Jesus takes notice of her. Not only that, but he points her out to his disciples.
The story itself is great, but what is greater is the discussion that it starts almost any time it is shared. In fact, it must have started quite a discussion among the disciples then and there, because look at the beginning of the next chapter of Mark:
As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mark 13:1)
Do you see what happened there? Jesus points out the poor widow and talks about how she has “given more” than the wealthy donors because she has given all she has. Then, sometime between that observation and the time Jesus and his guys are leaving the temple, the discussion turns to the magnificence of the temple. How do you suppose that happened?
My guess is that somebody in the group said something like, “Yeah, but you really need those big donors. I mean, the woman is making a big personal sacrifice, but this temple wasn’t built from poor widows throwing in a couple of coins. I mean, just look at this place!”
Jesus then proceeds to make the point that even the extravagant temple is just rocks piled on top of each other that can be (and will be) destroyed. True, magnificent structures aren’t typically built using gifts from the poor – but Jesus isn’t really all that interested in building fancy buildings. He’s way more interested in transforming people.
In Jesus’ eyes, I believe that what he saw happening in that woman’s heart as she gave those two coins far exceeded the awe that most of us get when we visit a vast cathedral. When his disciples looked, they just saw a poor widow. When Jesus looked, he saw a grand example of his Father’s craftsmanship – a woman who understood her total reliance on God – and he was in awe of her. God, let us see people like Jesus saw them!
The random nature of the Mosaic books really puzzles me. Take today’s reading as a prime example. Between some verses about treating foreigners well and treating refugee slaves well, we get this:
If one of your men is unclean because of a nocturnal emission, he is to go outside the camp and stay there. (Deuteronomy 23:10)
Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. (Deuteronomy 23:12-14)
Now, let’s set aside the visual of God “moving about” and stepping in our feces for a moment and look at the fact that these are incredibly random things to say. In fact, much of what we read today in Deuteronomy is random – so much so that, try as they may have, the Biblical scholars who determined the section titles for the NIV couldn’t make sense of it either. They ended up titling Deuteronomy 23:15-25 “Miscellaneous Laws.”
What is up? Was Moses just jotting down things as fast as he could in whatever order they popped into his head? Maybe the book was poorly assembled somewhere down the line and things got knocked out of order. Whatever the case, it makes for a less-than-cohesive read. Nonetheless, there is a gem tucked away in every piece of Scripture if you’re willing to dig for it – some applicable truth to be gleaned.
In today’s reading, for example, let’s dig around in the aforementioned “Miscellaneous Laws” and see what we find:
God’s people are to provide refuge for the oppressed (Deuteronomy 23:15-16)
God’s people are to offer him only money that they have obtained from a morally decent practice (Deuteronomy 23:17-18)
God’s people are to be gracious toward each other in the areas of finance (Deuteronomy 23:19-20)
God’s people are to honor the promises they make (Deuteronomy 23:21-23)
God’s people are to share their possessions, but not take advantage of others (Deuteronomy 23:24-25)
You see, these random examples may not directly relate to our lives on the surface, but with just a little bit of digging, we can uncover something about God’s nature and expectation. We simply have to be willing to look past the feces, dig through the dirt and find the gem.