Friday, May 25, 2012

The Widow's Two Coins

You know the story; the widow gave all she had to God. What a wonderful example of dedication! Here's the text from Luke 21:
1[Jesus] looked up and saw the rich dropping their offerings into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow dropping in two tiny coins. “I tell you the truth,” He said. “This poor widow has put in more than all of them. For all these people have put in gifts out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”
I read something the other day (don't remember where) which gave me a new perspective on this account of the widow's offering. I don't know that the perspective is accurate, but it's a thought that never occurred to me before.

If we include the paragraph just prior to this account in Luke 21:1ff, and the paragraph after, we have this construction:
  • "Beware of the scribes, who devour widows' houses." (Luke 20:46-47)
  • "This widow put everything she had to live on into the Temple treasury." (Luke 21:1-4)
  • "This Temple adorned with gifts dedicated to God? The day is coming when not one stone will be left on another." (Luke 21:5-6)
How do scribes devour widows' houses? Are they making mortgage loans to the widows, and then foreclosing on those loans? Maybe the scribes are romancing the widows, using them for their money until the money's all gone? Or is it a more subtle, psychological method? Maybe it's that the scribes are teaching from the pulpit that if you don't contribute to the church, you're cheating God?

Looked at in this light, it's less a praising of the woman's generosity (although it is that, too), than a condemnation of the Temple authorities' pressuring everyone, including those who can't afford it, to give what they can't afford in order to build up the meeting house which is gone tomorrow.

Is this an accurate understanding of this text? I don't know. But I thought it worth sharing.

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