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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Seeing God Through Jesus

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This is at a vineyard that a friend of ours owns these folks are all harvesting grapes for ice wine.  Ice wine is a very risky crop as the grapes for it must be harvested when they are frozen, usually having been frozen at least twice.  The vineyard loses a lot of the grapes because of this, thus Ice Wine is in smaller bottles and very expensive.

John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Read John 1:14-18 Jesus was full of the grace of God, and came to declare God’s grace to us.  We can only see God through seeing Jesus.  And of Jesus’ fullness we have all received grace.  Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ and the law was given by Moses.

Read Matthew 20: 1-16  Jesus tells us The Parable of the Hired laborers.  In this story the owner of the vineyard pays the workers who work all day the same wages as the worker who arrives just before the work day is over.  Jesus is saying that God has a different view of what is important.  People who are grabbing for themselves and worrying about how to get it all for themselves, or get more than another person, have the wrong view.  God is looking for us to give Him all of ourselves.  Some people don’t respond to God’s call until later in life.  They receive the same gift of grace as those who responded to God’s call when they are children.  In God’s view they are equal in Christianity.  The Christian who has been a Christian all of their life does not have anymore Christianity in their soul than the person who has been Christian only a day.  When you accept God’s grace, you are all equal.  There are, of course, knowledge level differences between these two Christians, but not soul level differences.  Also the person who has walked with God longer, has avoided many worldly or sin related problems that the other person has had, or at least has had Godly support during those problems, and has been blessed longer by God.  The issue is to look to God, and not to your own reward.  Jesus set us a good example of this with his ministry.  When we look at Jesus and His priorities we see what God’s priorities are.   God’s priority is to win souls back to him.  Jesus shows us that the two most important things we are two do is to love God above everything, and love others like we love ourselves.

One of the major blessings to a Christian is being able to share in the joy of someone else’s redemption.  In this parable the point at the end about “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” is the most telling thing about this whole parable.  It is the idea that the land owner could have paid those who worked all day first, then sent them on their way.  They probably wouldn’t have known that the ones who arrived later got paid the same wage if he had done that.  Instead, what the land owner was looking for was an appreciation of his generosity, and for the workers who had worked all day to celebrate the good fortune of the later workers in still being paid enough to feed their families, despite being hired later in the day.  A Denarius was what it typically took to feed a family for a day in Jesus’ time.  

Instead what the workers did was look to themselves and shout that the situation was unfair.  That is a typical world view commonly held today, “It’s not fair, I did more so I should get more!”  or “It’s not fair they get more, even though…..”  Both views are the world view.  God views things very differently.

God gives us what we need to accomplish the task that he has put us on this earth to do. If you need to be wealthy to accomplish that task, then you will be, but if you don’t then you probably won’t be.  God is not against wealth, he just doesn’t see it the same way that the world sees it.  If I tell you that God is going to make you wealthy because you follow him, then that would most likely turn out to be a lie.  There are plenty of examples of people in the Bible who followed God and were not financially wealthy.  Take the story of the widow’s offering to be an example (Mark 12:41-44) This woman was clearly not wealthy, yet she was faithful.  God blesses the faithful, but there are all kinds of blessings that do not necessarily include financial wealth. True wealth is being able to have a lifetime of relationship with God because of having accepted his son, Jesus Christ as your personal savior, and being able to share that joy with others!

By the way, here is another often misquoted Bible verse for you about wealth:  1Timothy 6:10 The love of money is the root of all evil.   Frequently you just hear people say, “Money is the root of all evil”  That is not true.  It is the “love” of money, not the money itself that is the problem.  So look to God and enjoy the blessings he has for you whatever form those blessings take in your life!

Don’t Rely on Earthly Wealth

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The view from the Bridge of Sorrows in Venice Italy.  This was the last view a condemned prisoner would see as they walked across the bridge from the Doge’s Palace to the Prison.

1 Timothy 6 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.  Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers.  Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them.   These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.  If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing.  He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.  But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who along is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.  To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.  Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care.  Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.  Grace be with you.

**Don’t rely on earthly wealth, you came into the world with nothing, and you leave it with nothing ….(you can’t take it with you!)

Rich people with worldly wealth are easier to tempt than those who have nothing, because they have more resources they are tempted to rely on their wealth instead of God.  (This is one reason why in the Beatitudes – Matthew 5 – in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus stated that the  “poor are blessed” – they have no resources and cannot rely on anything else, but God thru prayer to solve their problems.)  Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and can cause you to wander from faith in God.  Look at David, when he was a poor shepherd boy with only a sling shot and stones, he was willing to trust in God to make his stones fly true and kill the evil Goliath for God’s glory so that the world would know that He is Lord of All.  And yet, once David was King and set eyes on Bathsheba, he felt that as King there was no reason he shouldn’t have another man’s wife as his wife.  That after all he, David, was the King.  He was so far from God, and so full of himself and his own power, that he didn’t even think twice about taking advantage of Bathsheba. 

Note:  It is the LOVE of Money that is the sin…NOT the HAVING of Money.

Read Matthew 19:16-30  The story of the rich young man.