38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” 41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
There is power in spoken word. We all know words cut down and words lift up, but words also shed light and cast vision and influence change. A well-placed word can elicit emotional response in a story as well as expose the truth in love. In this encounter, Jesus’ words expose multiple dimensions of truth. He offers insight on what’s really happening within this woman, within the synagogue, and within the systems behind it all. Jesus affirms this woman’s faithful and sacrificial giving, while cautioning the scribes who enforce programs which cause this woman to give every up penny she has.
Some teachers use this passage to teach generosity or the sacrifice it takes to obey Jesus, but Jesus’ comments here seem intended to get leaders to think about how they’re treating the poor. While his words honor the widow, they’re meant to be a zinger. Jesus doesn’t shy away from speaking what he sees and teaching his disciples about the broken systems in this world. Although his words appear insulting to religious authorities, he laments the system that “devours widow’s houses” and speaks out for the sake of love.
Oftentimes compassion is hard. Love is risky. Speaking out is uncomfortable. But, change can only begin when well-placed words are expressed for the sake of love. When we speak up, we can be vessels of change. When we speak out, we can be influencers of the Jesus way. In this instance, Jesus grieves the broken religious, social, and economic systems that oppress the poor. What brokenness do you grieve? Take some time to write a lament of something in this world that bring heaviness to your heart. Then ask God how you might be able to speak up about it.
By Yvonne Biel