The Devourer’s of Widow’s houses

IMG_2256Luke 20:45-47 45 Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

Luke 21:1-4 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

I was having a conversation with my Mother last week and she mentioned the widow’s mite and I felt compelled to go and reread it.  Many times I have heard people quote this story as if it were another of Jesus’ parables and say things like  “The Widow was more blessed than all the rest because she gave everything she had to God!”  I have heard this story used to say that we should give our all to God.

While it is true that we should give ourselves fully over to God I don’t believe that it is in God’s nature, nor is it in scripture that God would like people to starve in order to pay tithe.  In fact, if you look at Luke 20:45-47, it is pretty obvious that Jesus is condemning the scribes for “devouring the widow’s houses”.  Now, I look at that along with Luke 21:1-4 where Jesus is standing there and observing this woman put in all she had to live on and it seems that Jesus is saying that the scribes are actually at fault for making this poor woman believe that in order to be accepted by God she needs to give everything she has to live on…even if it means she must starve.

Now there are other places that we can go in scripture to back up the idea that God takes care of his people and he puts the people and their well being above following the law.

For instance:  Mark 2:23-27 

23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.

24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?

25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungered, he, and they that were with him?

26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?

27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

(1Samuel 21:7 for the scripture about David and his men.)

When we look at Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Many times you will hear folks say, “Blessed are the Poor” and then leave it at that…the complete statement is Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Now that is a completely different idea…there is nothing in the Sermon on the Mount which is talking about wealth or poverty of material goods.  Everything is talking about attitude toward God and toward others in life.

When I read the idea of the Poor in Spirit…I think it is about being selfless in your attitude in life.  You are always looking toward the needs of others, and what God wants you to do…not always yelling about yourself and your rights in this world.  That is what it means to me when I read the “poor in spirit” statement.

God continually condemns self centered people who walk all over or manipulate others for their own gain!  There is a lot of misconception about wealth in the world of Christianity.  The reason misconception continues is that there are many Christians who do not read the Word of God for themselves and study it.  Relying solely on someone in the pulpit to tell you how to be a Christian is a huge error!  There are a lot of folks who take things out of context and support their beliefs instead of taking it in the context in which it was written and finding out what God is really like.

There are very sincere Christians in all walks of life..both wealthy and poor…God has no problem with the level of your pocket book….only if you love your wealth more than you love him and those around you is there a problem.  The Bible says, “Love of money is the root of all evil”, not: “money is the root of all evil.”

1Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

This is why the scribes were condemned…it was love of themselves and love of money to the point where they actually “devoured widow’s houses”.  They were hypocrites in the worst way, they gave “some” of their wealth, but made the widow feel that she had to give “all” of her goods in order to measure up.

Have you ever done that?  Seen that someone was giving a lot and so felt the need to put more in than you could really afford…more than you had previously decided on because the amount you were able to give seemed “insignificant” by comparison to what you knew the other person was giving?!! God says that he loves a cheerful giver…he wants you to give what you feel you can… to honor him.  He does not want you comparing yourself with the person next to you.  He wants your love and trust in him. That is why it is best if all giving is done quietly and personally.

I went to a large church as a visitor with someone once, and that person told me that whenever they went to their church they felt that they should always bring the “checkbook”; when I attended with them I understood why they felt that way…the buckets (literally) were passed about 5 times down the aisles during their worship!  Now some folks who are new or unsure of their Christianity would feel pressured to always put something in each time it was passed in order to not be “embarrassed”…I wonder what Jesus would think of his followers treating his sheep like that in his name?!!  Well, we don’t have far to look…looking again at the verses in Luke 20 and Luke 21 above it seems clear how Jesus would feel about these things.

The Bible is very clear on the status of widows and orphans from Old Testament through New Testament the attitude is the same.  Those who are most vulnerable in society should be protected and cared for either by their relatives or by the church if there are no relatives to care for them.

Exodus 22:22-23King James Version (KJV)

22 Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.

23 If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;

For more from the apostle Paul on the care of widows and orphans look at 1Timothy 5.
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Praying to God’s Glory

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I like this image as it shows the idea of people of all types being connected through prayer.

 

Psalm 96:3 Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.

Read 1Kings 17:17-24 Elijah prayed for God to bring the boy’s soul back to his body or bring him back to life, and God did so.  This was when Elijah was staying with the Widow woman and her son, and her meal jar and oil cruse, never went dry during the entire drought.

God’s answering Elijah’s prayer gave this woman proof that Elijah was a man of God.

The prayer in this story was answered simply to give God glory and to build this woman and her son’s faith.  The woman in this story which has more to it if you read all of Chapter 17 you will see…she was a woman at her wits end.  She was ready to die and felt that both she and her son would die.  She had given up….then, in walks Elijah on God’s instruction…he is bold to ask her to make him a meal.  She looks at him and says, “What?  This is the last of our grain.  I am getting ready to prepare my son, and myself our last meal, then we will die as we have nothing left to eat!”  Elijah tells her that if she will do as he says that they won’t run out of food.  So she did as he asked, and God edified her faith by making sure that she did not run out of food.  

Then we have the seeming twist in the plot…the woman’s son falls so ill that he stops breathing…so of course the woman is very upset.  I mean, who wouldn’t be, right?!!  God just saved her and her son, and has been feeding them while she feeds Elijah, God’s prophet….now suddenly after she is thinking that things will be all right and they are going to live….her son just up and dies!  Her reaction is that it was some twist of fate that Elijah essentially came to call her sins to light and punish her for them by killing her son.  No doubt as a parent, the worst thing would be to live to see your child die!  

Before Elijah came into their lives she was going to be dying with her son, now she believed she would be living without him!  In her time period a woman who had no son, and no husband was in dire straits to find a way to live and feed herself. The options were very limited.   In her mind, this must have seemed like some cruel punishment from God.  I mean, she has already lost her husband, nearly starved to death, and now when things have been looking up, suddenly her son dies.

So the woman took her concern straight to Elijah, and Elijah took it straight to God.  Elijah asks God about this, and then prays that the boy’s soul will return to his body.

 I find it interesting that he stretches himself out over the boys body 3 times…honestly, I am pretty sure that Elijah didn’t know CPR which the mouth to mouth portion of didn’t exist in records until the 1700’s, but reading this it reminding me of that…so just for the record even when a person is revived from a medical procedure or any intervention of man..it is still God who is doing the reviving and it is miraculous…just as miraculous now as this story of Elijah and the widow’s son.  I am sure that person and any relatives who witness this kind of revival would agree that for them it was miraculous.  Well, I suppose there are always going to be folks who “don’t have the eyes to see” a miracle when it is there, but by and large most people in the situation of this widow who get their loved one back, would be shouting hallelujahs and praising God for his act of grace!

Anyway, the fact is that God showed this woman his character, his love, and his mercy again, by reviving her son.  He showed her that she was wrong, that he was not a God who would punish her for her past sins when she was following him.  We know that this woman was following God because she acted in faith when Elijah showed up…even on the brink of death from starvation. (Now, who knows what sins this woman had, but we all are guilty of something, and some sins do have earthly penalties for us.)

Now God edified her act of faith, but he also wanted to show her that she could trust him in all the circumstances of her life, even when things were dire.  The last line shows us that she knew from this miraculous act that Elijah was “truly” a man of God.

This may sound funny, considering that Elijah told her as we read in verse 14 For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth. (KJV) So, we would think that she knew it was God who did the saving of her and her son by not letting them starve?!!  This makes you think, why would God need to further show her who he was?

Simply because she still didn’t understand his character of love, she still didn’t understand that God loved her and her son, and wanted the best for them.  Another thing to consider, is that in the Old Testament time period there were “seers” who were not necessarily people of God, but who were respected as mystical, wise men types…like the witch of Endor in the story of Saul and Samuel, and like the Pharoah’s wise men, and the King Nebuchadnezzar’s (Babylon) wise men.

God did not want Elijah to be mistaken for any of these types of people…he wanted this woman and her son to know without any doubt, that Elijah was representing the One True God!  The God who can be trusted in issues of both life and death!  The God to whom all glory is due!  Her prayers and those of Elijah were answered so that God would be glorified, respected, loved, honored and understood as the God of undying and unending love!

Prayers are answered just for that reason and that reason only to show the love of God to us and others, and to glorify him.

Read Psalm 65: This Psalm is about praising God, and God answering prayer and blessing people, God is the hope of all the ends of the earth.

God wants us to glorify him and love him sincerely, he wants us to praise him and call on him for everything….he wants us to have a relationship with him that is close and personal.

God does not want us to have empty mottos and slogans that say we glorify him, yet mean nothing because we do not obey him and love him in our hearts.  We are told that our actions strongly reflect what is in our hearts…or in other words, our faith shall be known by our deeds…what best glorifies God is our love for him and for others.

Matthew 7:15-20 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (NKJV)

John 14:23  Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (KJV)

James 2:14-19 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

When we are praying to God’s glory we should be praying for God’s blessings to fall on those whom we are praying for, very specifically.  Just as Elijah was very specific to the person he was praying for when he was speaking to God.  Elijah wanted to show this widow God’s love for her and her son, who God was, and through his prayer life, and God’s intervention…this was done and God was glorified by it!  Elijah’s every action in this situation was in obedience to God and for the glorification of God!

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