A Poor Widow’s Offering

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Reading the Word

Mark 12:41–44 (ESV)

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.”

Parallel Text: Luke 21:1-4

Understanding and Applying the Word

In today’s passage we read of a woman who gave “two small copper coins, which make a penny.” The coins that are mentioned are lepta. A lepton was a Jewish coin worth about 1/128th of a day’s wage. So, two coins would have only been worth about 1/64th of a daily wage. The two coins were of a very small value. They were insignificant by worldly standards.

Jesus commented on the woman’s offering and remarked that the woman had given more than the rich people who put in large sums. Why did he say this? Because the rich gave out of their excess. It was easy for them to give the amounts they did. They would never miss it! However, the woman was poor and gave all that she had to live on. Her gift was truly sacrificial and revealed what was truly valuable to her.

It is a well-known saying: “Show me what a person spends his money on and I will tell you what is truly important to him.” What would our financial records reveal about us. Do we put God and his kingdom first, or are we only ready and willing to give out of our excess? How we use our money, possessions, and time truly reveals what is most important to us.

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The Danger of Riches

The Rich Young Man Went Away Sorrowful

The Rich Young Man Went Away Sorrowful (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 18:18–30 (ESV)

18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again, we read Jesus’ teaching on money and possessions. This time, a ruler (i.e. a wealthy person with power) went to Jesus to ask what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus told him that he needed to keep the commandments as recorded in the Old Testament law. Jesus specifically mentioned the commandments not to murder, commit adultery, steal, or bear false witness, as well as the command to honor father and mother. The young ruler replied that he had done all of those things.

After the rich ruler’s response, Jesus told him there was one thing that he lacked. He needed to sell all of his things and distribute his wealth to the poor. This last statement touched on the last of the commandments traditionally found in the Ten Commandments. It is the commandment concerning coveting. This ruler obviously had a problem with coveting material wealth as he was unable to part with his things. In exposing this sinful problem, it also exposed a problem with the ruler’s relationship with God. Money, wealth, and possessions were far too important to this man. They had taken a place in his life and passions that should be reserved for God alone. Wealth had become an idol. The rich ruler was guilty not only of the last commandment, but also the first four that deal with a proper relationship with God.

Wealth and possessions can easily entangle us. We must be careful not to allow them to become our focus or source of security and happiness. The Lord must be all of those things. He is far better than anything we could ever possess and there is nothing that we could ever give up that will compare to knowing and belonging to the One who gave his life that we might be his.

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A Story About a Lover of Money

Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man's Door

The Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man’s Door (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 16:19–31 (ESV)

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Often mistaken as a historical account, this parable is commonly referred to as The Rich Man and Lazarus. Jesus is still addressing the Pharisees who Luke calls “lovers of money.” Luke’s Gospel speaks a great deal about the proper place of money and possessions and warns about covetousness. Jesus calls us to use our wealth for the glory of God and to further the kingdom rather than hoarding it for our own selfish desires.

The parable describes a poor man named Lazarus and an unnamed rich man. Lazarus, who was also covered in sores, was a beggar who desired to eat some of the food that would fall from the rich man’s plate. When the two died, Lazarus is ushered to the side of Abraham with the people of God. The rich man, on the other hand, went to Hades and was in constant torment every day. This would have been quite shocking since wealth was seen as the blessing of God and poverty, God’s curse. Jesus’ hearers would have expected opposite fates for the rich man and Lazarus.

In Hades, the rich man called out for relief, but none was granted. Instead, he was told that he had enjoyed all of his good things in life. Rather than obey the Scriptures by loving others such as Lazarus and putting the things of God first, the rich man had lived selfishly with no regard for God or others. As a result, God’s judgment had fallen upon him and it was fixed.

Jesus spoke a great deal about our attitude towards wealth because our attitude towards money and possessions is a key indicator of our relationship with the Lord. When our relationship with the Lord is healthy, money is understood as a tool that is necessary for life in this world and as an opportunity for us to glorify God. We can use our wealth to further the kingdom of God in the world by helping the poor, giving to our church, or supporting missionaries on the field, etc. However, if we cling too tightly to our money and think of it only as our own, we reveal that we have an idol. All we have is the Lord’s and how we use it tells us a great deal about ourselves.

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Lovers of Money

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Luke 16:14–17 (ESV)

14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

Do You Serve God or Money?

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Reading the Word

Luke 16:10–13 (ESV)

10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

It has been said, “Show me a person’s checkbook and I will tell you what is really important to that person.” I find this to be a true statement. Where a person spends his money reflects what is truly important. It is also true that a person who mishandles a small amount of money and possessions will mishandle a larger amount. A person does not magically become a better and wiser steward when given more.

Jesus’ primary point in these verses is summarized in the last verse. One cannot serve two masters. A person cannot serve God and money. Jesus’ point is not to say that money is evil in and of itself. Money has its proper place. It is a tool that we use in our world. We need it for basic survival. We can also use money for great good by helping others or using it to help spread the gospel message. However, it can become a great idol when we think of money as the source of happiness and fulfillment. When we think this way, not only are our affections misplaced, but we will spend all of our time trying to gain more of it. It will consume our thoughts and actions. When this happens, it has become our master.

We are called to worship God and God alone. We are to have no idols. So, for the believer, God must be the focus of our affections and actions. All that we do is for him, including how we use our money and possessions. We must use it for his glory and to fulfill his will. How we use our money is an opportunity to worship our Lord and to show who we truly belong to. In the end, we will give an account for how we have used the things that God has given to us. Will we prove that we are trustworthy stewards of the things of God?

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The Shrewd Use of Possessions

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Reading the Word

Luke 16:1–9 (ESV)

1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This is a parable that lends itself to some debate. A manager is discovered mismanaging his master’s possessions. When this happens, the manager quickly goes to his master’s debtors and forgives portions of their debt. He does this to get into the good graces of others so he will have a better chance of employment when he loses his current position. When the master found out about this, he commended the manager for his shrewdness.

The parable poses difficulty because it is strange to us why the master would commend the manager for what he did. After all, he cost the master profit. There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, this is a parable and the details do not have to reflect what we would expect in real life. The story is meant to teach a specific lesson and the details point to that lesson. Also, the master does not commend the manager for his actions, but for his shrewdness. The manager acted in such a way to look out for his future. The master recognized this forward-looking behavior and acknowledged it.

Jesus finished the parable by telling his disciples that they too needed to be shrewd in how they used “unrighteous wealth”. Possessions have a way of being used for our own self interests and pulling us away from the most important things in life. Instead, we should be always looking to the future in our use of wealth and possessions, knowing that one day we will give an account before the Lord in how we have used these things for the glory of God and his kingdom. How can we use our possessions shrewdly for the Lord?

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Who Do You Serve?

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:41–48 (ESV)

41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Peter wondered if Jesus’ former words (cf. Luke 12:1-40) regarding coveting and readiness were meant for all people or for “us.” By “us”, Peter is most likely referring to the disciples and their roles as leaders. Jesus’ response tells us what he expects of all of his followers; those is leadership and those who are not.

In his response, Jesus uses an illustration of a master who goes away and leaves a servant in charge. To leave a slave in charge while away was quite common practice. However, while the master was away, the servant left in charge beats the other slaves left in his care because he does not think the master will return very soon and he is not concerned with fulfilling his master’s desires. To the servant’s surprise, the master returns unexpectedly and learns what has been taking place. The result is sever punishment. Jesus says this is what it will be like for those who are entrusted with leadership over his people.

Jesus went on to say what it will be like for the other servants who are not in leadership roles. They too will give an account for their service. Those who knew their responsibility and refused to do it will receive a severe beating, while those who did not know and failed to do what was expected will also be punished, but less severely. What does this mean? Those who have been given much will have greater expectations. Those who have been placed in leadership, those who have greater understanding, and those who have been given greater opportunities and resources, will be judged by what they have done with what they have received. Those who have received less will also be judged, but the expectations will be less.

In the end, we must realize that we will all stand before our Lord and we will give an account of what we have done with all he has given us. What have we done with our time, our money, our possessions, our intellect, etc. Have we made the proclamation of the gospel our top priority? Have we fulfilled our leadership roles as those who are stewards of God’s people? Have we sought to spend our lives in the service of our Master so that he will be pleased when he returns to inspect our work? How are we living our lives? Who are we serving?

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Sell Your Possessions and Give to the Needy

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:33–34 (ESV)

33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus spoke a great deal about possessions and coveting in the previous verses (cf. Luke 12:13-32). The focus of his teaching was telling his disciples to learn to trust that God would care for them. The disciples needed to learn to make kingdom priorities their priorities while trusting that their daily needs would be provided by their loving Father.

To end this section and in keeping with the same theme, Jesus told his disciples to sell their possessions and give to the needy. Again, care for the needy is a kingdom priority. Believers are called to care for others because all people are created in the image of God. We are to show Christ’s love for others by caring for them and by also sharing the gospel message.

People are much more important than possessions. Possessions eventually just end up in the trash can or left behind when we die. Instead, we should concentrate on things that last for eternity. We should invest in people, in the kingdom of Christ, and in proclaiming the gospel. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.”

What are the priorities in your life?

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Don’t Be a Rich Fool

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:16–21 (ESV)

16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the previous verses (vv. 13-15), Jesus addressed covetousness. In today’s verses, he continues to address the same issue with a parable. A rich man took great care to prepare himself for all of his earthly needs. However, Jesus calls him a “fool.” Why? Because he had laid up all of his treasure for himself and had not been rich toward God.

The rich man’s wealth had caused him to become self-sufficient and we see it in his words. Over and over he says “I will do this” and “I will do that” and “my barns” and “my grain.” He does not need God because of all he has done for himself. The rich man has prepared himself for a future of ease (cf. verse 19) in his own strength.

We are called to use all that we have been given, including our finances, to further the kingdom of Christ. We do this by spreading the gospel and assisting others to do the same. We are rich towards God when we make his purposes the priority of our lives. However, how many of us really do this? If we examined where our time, resources, and money goes, would it look like we are being rich towards God or keeping it all for ourselves? Do we trust that the Lord will provide for our daily needs or are we working to provide for ourselves like the rich fool?

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It’s Not About Possessions

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a Scripture reading for the day. Please be sure to subscribe so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Jesus Christ throughout 2019.

Reading the Word

Luke 12:13–15 (ESV)

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”