Hidden Treasures

The Bible is much more than a book of religion.

The Final Straw

There is much teaching in Scripture about sacrificial and proportional giving, and of the blessing it brings to us as well as to others; but the purpose of the story before us in Luke 21:1-6  is not one of those lessons about giving and it’s rewards.

 

In this story Jesus told about a widow who gave her last two coins to the temple treasury, Jesus is simply making an observation that the widow gave all she had, whereas the rich gave from their abundance.

 

THE SETTING OF THIS STORY

 

To learn the proper lesson from this story, we must understand the setting. This is Jesus’ final week of earthly ministry.  He has cleansed the temple and exposed the covetous religious leaders.  He has nothing more to say to the crowds, nor to the religious leaders who were leading the people astray.  His three years of earthly ministry are finished.  The Jews have rejected their Messiah. .

 

Now Jesus is about to pronounce judgment on the people and their religion and total destruction on the temple and the city of Jerusalem.

 

This event concerning the poor widow who gave her last two mites to the temple is the last straw for Jesus.  He is ready to cut loose and pronounce judgment on Israel here in Luke 21.  You can also find an account of this judgment on Israel and the course of these past 2000 years in His  Olivet Discourse in Mark 13; but the most complete account is found in Matthew 23 where you will read the harshest and most blistering denunciation of the Jewish leaders that Jesus ever spoke.

 

After the denunciation, Jesus took His disciples with Him to the Mount of Olives to speak to them privately about the future course of history for the Jews and for the rest of the world. This is known as the Olivet Discourse and you will find it in Luke 21:7-36,  Mark 13:3-37  and Matthew 24-25.

 

Were all the disciples there listening to Him?  Probably.  I’ve always pictured them all there,  but Mark 13:3 seems to teach that this was given privately  to Peter, James and John only. In any event, these three are the ones who asked the question of Jesus.

 

Note that Jesus told this story of the widow between two events. 

 

In Luke 20:45-47 He warned His disciples, as the Jewish crowds listened, to beware of  their false religious leaders.  

 

Then in Luke 21:5-36  He pronounced judgment on the temple and Jerusalem. 

 

In between the warning and the judgment, came this event of the widow giving her two pence.

 

Why did Jesus make this observation of the widow just then? It seems like a strange time to be giving His disciples a lesson on stewardship.

 

WHAT THIS STORY WAS NOT TEACHING

 

Jesus was not primarily teaching a stewardship lesson here.  He was just making an observation concerning the widow who gave everything she had to the temple treasury and contrasting her giving with the giving of the wealthy who gave a little out of their wealth.

 

Just a side thought here.  Jesus is God. He was God then and He is still God today.  He is the same, yesterday, today and forever as Hebrews 13:5 declares.  He is always looking on our hearts. He is always observing how we spend our time, talents, energy and money. Let’s never lose sight of that.  He is fully aware of our sacrifices and our motives and He will reward accordingly.

 

Jesus was not teaching here that the measure of our giving is  determined by how much we have left after giving.

 

He was not teaching self-denial here; although He does teach self-denial elsewhere, such as in Matthew 16:23-25.

 

He was not teaching that the highest level of spirituality is for us to give away everything we own and take a vow of poverty.  That is stupidity and an evidence of spiritual blindness.

 

How do we know Jesus was not making these points?  Because He didn’t.  He just made an observation, contrasting that the widow gave all she had, whereas the rich simply gave from their abundance.

 

If there is a stewardship lesson to be given here, it is that God wants us to give away everything we own:  our house, car, clothes, food and everything else.  That is NOT the lesson of this story, nor is it normally His will for any of us;  or Jesus would have made that point.

 

To teach people to give away all they own is foolish and  irresponsible.

 

Some exceptions to that statement

 

1. Elijah told the widow who was preparing her last meal before she died with her son to give it to him.  God told Elijah to ask her for all of it.  You are aware of the rest of that thrilling story.  If not,  read it in I Kings 17.

 

2. Jesus once told a rich young man to sell everything he had and give it all to the poor. That story is in Matthew 19:16-22.  He challenged that man to do so in order to confront him with his pride and self-righteousness on which he was counting to earn Heaven.

 

3. I think of another example of a young man, William Borden,  who gave up everything to serve Christ. William Borden was heir to the Borden Dairy estate and a millionaire.

 

As a high school graduation gift, he parents sent him around the world. During his trip the Lord called him to be a missionary to China. He wrote home, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.”  And at the age of eighteen he wrote in the back of his Bible,  “No Reserves.”

 

As a student at Yale, he sought to win college men to Christ and His service.  After graduation he entered two more words in his Bible. “No Retreats” 

 

After finishing Princeton Seminary, in 1913 Borden sailed for China to begin his ministry. While on the trip, in Egypt he developed meningitis and died within the month.

 

But underneath the words, “No reserves” and “No retreats”, Borden had written the words  “No regrets.”   God used Borden’s story to speak to the hearts of many young people of that era who gave their lives for Christ’s service.

 

4, Certainly the Apostle Paul is one of the chief examples of this kind of total sacrifice for Christ.  You can’t read the Book of Acts and Paul’s Epistles without being struck with Paul’s total sacrifice for Christ His Saviour and Lord.

 

A Caution

 

If God leads someone to give all they own to His cause, we must not try to hold them back. However, we must never teach nor encourage needy people, especially widows  to give away all their life savings, leaving themselves in total poverty in hopes that God will bless them.  Preachers who would teach such are evil men to be avoided.  Jesus described them  in Luke 20:47, Matthew 23:14 and Mark 12:40 as people who devour  widow’s houses; that is, take advantage of them.  

 

IF THIS STORY DOES NOT TEACH STEWARDSHIP, THEN WHY IS IT FOUND HERE?

 

As I mentioned earlier, Jesus was furious with the wicked religious leaders who were taking advantage of the poor.  They  had confused values as they taught the people to observe their man-made traditions and ignore God’s clear commands. That’s what was being talked about in Matthew 15:1-9.  They were teaching that giving to the temple took precedence over giving to the support of needy parents.  Mark 7:6-13 gives the same lesson.

He uses the word corbon, (which means devoted to God) to refer to their offerings. 

 

TOO BAD, TOO BAD! We’ve already given our money to God!

 

In other words, selfish sons and daughters could ignore the needs of their needy parents simply by declaring that the money that could have been used to help their parents, had already been given to God.  It was as if they were saying,  “Too bad!  Too bad! We can’t help you. We’ve already given our money to God!”

 

THE FINAL STRAW

 

So as Jesus, in sorrow and utter exhaustion, was looking down; suddenly He lifted up  His head and saw the widow and others giving their money to the temple treasury and as He saw and heard others glorying in the wealth and beauty of the temple, He cut loose. This was the final straw. In Luke 21:6 He proclaims, “As for thee things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

 

Here Jesus prophesied of the judgment and utter devastation of the temple and of the city of Jerusalem.  That destruction took place forty years later when Titus led the Roman army to totally destroy the temple and the city in 70 AD.

 

God will judge preachers today, some on television, who pressure poor and needy people to send their money to their cause, promising God will bless them for their sacrifice.  Some of these prosperity preachers, are no better than the bankers and CEO’s today who live in luxury and then cry to Congress to bail them out at tax payer expense.

 

In nations where dead, oppressive religion reigns, you will find magnificent cathedrals and you will find  masses of people, kept in ignorance and poverty and bondage to religion,  as they struggle in their poverty to pay their religious leaders to pray them out of Purgatory (a sheer invention of their religion)  into Heaven.  With such religious leaders, God is furious and they will face eternal damnation in Hell.

 

A FINAL THOUGHT

 

Though Spirit-led Christians delight in sacrificing their lives and all that they possesses  to God and though sometimes they give perhaps more than they should,  we who are in spiritual leadership should never encourage it, but rather try to dissuade them from such extreme sacrifice.   That’s what the Apostle Paul did as he tried to dissuade the Macedonian Christians from giving more than they should.  Read II Corinthians 8:1-5 on this.  Paul rightly cautioned them about going overboard in their sacrificial giving. They had to entreat Paul to take their offerings. Nevertheless, the people insisted on giving sacrificially to the poor saints in Jerusalem. Paul commends them for that sacrifice. 

 

May God help us as church leaders to never put people in bondage by pressuring them to give beyond their means with the promise that God will bless them for it. 

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March 4, 2009 - Posted by | Olivet Discourse

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