Let me begin by saying I hate preaching about money, particularly during a capital campaign for a building project!! It just makes everyone uncomfortable and seems to lay the groundwork for people comparing themselves about who could, and who does, give how much to the church.
The natural flow of Luke’s writing contrasts the pride and self-centredness of the teachers of the law Jesus describes in 20:45-47. While they greedily devour widow’s houses, this widow gives all she has to God.
This harks back to an earlier comparison between the Rich Young Ruler (I think his mates called him Jim) in Luke 18, and Zacchaeus in Luke 19. Again, the “righteous” ruler wouldn’t give up his wealth, while Zacchaeus, the “sinner”, responded to Jesus’ teaching by giving half his possessions to the poor.
I have always struggled to reconcile Jesus’ praise of her generosity and her apparent irresponsibility.
Is she being a good steward by giving all she has in worship to God? or should we also use her as a negative example of financial irresponsibility? Is Zacchaeus a better example because he only gave away half of his wealth?
The main question I want to pose for discussion is this, Why do so many churches and Christian institutions seem to ignore the lesson of this passage? I understand the natural urge to honour large contributions, but Jesus makes that basic point that the percentage of wealth one gives, not the total dollar amount, provides the best indication of an individual’s generosity.
Yet many churches and university campuses honour individuals who give $1 million, or some such figure. I’ve never seen a building named after someone who gave 95% of their wealth to this project, or ministry. Am I off base? Have you ever seen a plaque like this? I’m also not sure how all this ties in with Jesus’ teachings on private giving, since he’s observing other people’s giving anyway.
In his book Falling In Love With Jesus, Rubel Shelly (p192) makes this statement, “We can best measure our offerings not by what we give but by how much we keep.” I think it’s an excellent summary statement of Jesus teaching in this episode. What’s your impression?