25 Pentecost, November 11
False pastors and religious hucksters often cite the story of the widow’s mite as reason for the poor to give away their last penny to “support the ministry” (Mark 12:38-44). The story of the widow of Zarephath may be used in a similar way (1 Kgs. 17:8-16). Just before telling of the widow’s offering, however, Jesus says, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and the place of honor at banquets! They devour widow’s houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnations” (Mark 12:38-40). There are many such scribes in our time and they are ruinous to the name of Christianity.
The widow of Zarephath was poor. She was gathering a few sticks to make a fire to prepare a final meal for herself and her son. The prophet Elijah, also poor, asked for a “little cake” (1 Kgs. 17:13). Jesus saw a woman put two small copper coins in the treasury, and said of her, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44). It is important to note that Jesus does not use her offering as an example of what the poor ought to do. He simply observes her poverty and the size of her offering relative to what she has. Both these stories gain special significance when seen through the poverty of Jesus. What did Jesus do to support himself?
In the abject poverty of his crucifixion, we learn something of how Jesus survived from day to day: “There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:40-41). His daily life was a crucifixion of poverty he bore on our behalf. “For you know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
The poverty and abasement of Jesus are the “sacrifice of himself” for the life of the world. He humbled himself. He lowered himself. He drank the cup of human poverty and human misery. He went to hell. He gathered every fragment of humanity lest anything be lost. His once-for-all offering of breath and blood is eternally significant, efficacious in every time, imputed to every elect soul. In his death and on the cross Jesus, strange to say, “entered heaven itself” and appeared “in the presence of God on our behalf” (Heb. 9:24). What he did once in time, he does eternally. He offers himself for us, intercedes for us, and is ever with us in the power of his divine Spirit.
Consider the rich and powerful. “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that day their plans perish” (Ps. 146:3-4). All we go down to the dust. In our human need, in truth, our poverty, we eagerly await the one who will save us (Heb. 9:28).
Look It Up
Read Hebrews 9:28.
Think About It
Enriched in Christ, we are still poor as we await him.