What Happened Next?

Today’s reading is Luke 21.

Is it just me or does the story about the poor widow seem incomplete? Shouldn’t the story go on to tell us how she left the temple complex and found a denarius on the ground or a treasure in a field? Or perhaps she got home to discover a long lost relative had looked her up and was providing her a large living? Or perhaps someone overheard Jesus’s praise of the woman, followed her home, adopted her into his family, and cared for her the rest of her life? Yet, we don’t see any of that. What happened next? Did she get to go home and eat or did she go home and starve? Did she continue to live in her home or did it get devoured by one of the scribes? We don’t know. I know what we want. We want a nice tidy picture in which this woman sacrificed for God, giving away all she had to live on, and by the end of the episode everything works out nicely for her as she receives an immediate reward from God. But you know what might have happened? Like the rich fool of Jesus’s story in Luke 12:16-21, she might have gone home and God said to her, “Tonight your soul is required of you.” She might have gone home and starved to death. If this is the case, then this account actually connects to another passage that on the surface may not seem to be connected, but really is. Luke 12:8-9 says the one who denies Jesus before men, Jesus will deny before God’s angels or messengers. But the one who acknowledges Jesus before men, Jesus will acknowledge before God’s angels/messengers. This widow was not making a verbal confession, but she was acknowledging God. She was acknowledging God’s care and love. What did Jesus do? He acknowledged her before God’s disciples, that is, His messengers. What a foreshadowing of what would happen for this woman once she died whether it was from starvation that week or of natural causes 20 years later after God provided an extended living for her. The great reward is not in this life, but in the next. Jesus doesn’t give us what we want here. The message is not give a large proportion of your income to God and then get blessed financially from some strange and shocking location. The message is put your hope completely in God because there is more to life than what is going on here on earth. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. But you know that in this moment, the best thing you can do is glorify God.

Monday’s reading is Luke 22.

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Put All Your Eggs in God’s Basket

Today’s reading is Luke 21.

The widow’s story is not about how we treat the church’s first day of the week collection. It is actually about how we treat our every day of the week hope. The point about the widow is not that proportionally she gave a bunch of money. This widow was giving away all she had in her possession to live on. However, the Law actually made provision for her support. According to Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and 26:12, the tithe was supposed to support widows. According to Deuteronomy 10:18, God executes justice for the widow, providing food and clothing. When the widow gave both of her coins, she was demonstrating how much she trusted God. She could have put just one coin in, holding one back to at least have something in case God didn’t come through. But she didn’t. She put both in the temple treasury. If this story were merely about proportional giving in the collection, surely half would have been enough. After all, that is how much Zacchaeus gave to the poor. The issue here is not about the proportion of our giving, but the proportion of our hope. This story is not intended to give us a rule that says we put every bit of our income in the church’s collection plate. The point is we put every bit of our hope in God. That means we use what material goods we have His way, to accomplish His goals, to do what He directed. That is going to include supporting the work of the congregation, sharing generously with those in need (especially within the household of faith), helping in cases of urgent need, providing for our families, etc. Rather than hoarding our goods because we want to make sure we are taken care of in case God’s plan fails, we trust God and use these funds His way. We put all of our hope in Him.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 21.

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Too Grown to Receive the Kingdom

Today’s reading is Luke 18.

Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Then He runs into a living, breathing version of one of His story characters. While it is true that a “ruler” of the Jews was not necessarily a Pharisee, that is most likely the case here. We find this term ruler used in Luke to refer to a ruler of the synagogue (Luke 8:41), a ruler of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1), then as Jewish leaders connected with the chief priests (Luke 23:13; 24:20). Since he is asking about inheriting eternal life, he is not likely one of the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection (see Luke 20:27-40). What is the problem with the rich ruler? A lack of childlike faith and reception. He was too grown to receive the kingdom. We might find it hard to believe someone would really act like the Pharisee in Jesus’s story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the middle of a prayer to God. That seems a bit over the top. However, we see how such an attitude of arrogance, pride, and self-deception acts out in real life. Here is a man just like the Pharisee of Jesus’s story. He has kept the law. We don’t see him bragging in prayer, but we do see him turn away in sadness at Jesus’s instruction. He is not childlike enough to simply accept what Jesus says and do it. Who knows, maybe he does later. But at this point, he leaves Jesus in sadness without the kingdom and unjustified. The message is don’t be so grown up you miss the kingdom.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 18.

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A Case Study in Stewardship

Today’s reading is Luke 16.

Earlier in the week we saw Jesus’s three point sermon on stewardship. Now we see a case study of stewardship. Jesus’s earlier parable encouraged the sons of light to be as shrewd in their preparations for the future as the sons of this world are. Now we see an example of a son of light who was not shrewd enough. The rich man was shrewd enough to think and act like a son of the world. He had used his finances shrewdly enough to be prepared to live in this world. However, he had not behaved as a son of light should. He had not made friends by means of his unrighteous wealth so that he could be welcomed into eternal dwellings. He had left Lazarus on his very own doorstep, poor, destitute, hungry. In eternity, he begged for mercy from Lazarus, but he had been unwilling to give any mercy to Lazarus while on this earth. The rich man was not welcomed by Lazarus into eternal dwellings, but even worse, he wasn’t even able to receive the least service of hospitality from Lazarus. In life, there was nothing but a gateway between the rich man and Lazarus. In eternity, there was a gulf too wide to cross. The rich man wouldn’t be bothered to help Lazarus in life. In eternity, even if Lazarus wanted to bestow mercy on the rich man, he couldn’t. I know we are wont to make this story of Lazarus and the rich man about a response to Jesus and being baptized. However, whether this story is a parable or an account of real events (as some suggest), it was about people before turning to Jesus was even a possibility. This is about being a shrewd, faithful, loyal steward. The rich man was not. Jesus is placing an exclamation point on His sermon about stewardship. We need to see it. Israel didn’t listen when Moses and the Prophets said to love God and love your neighbor. Will we listen when the one who rose from the dead said so?

Monday’s reading is Luke 17.

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Faithful Stewardship

Today’s reading is Luke 16.

Perhaps one of the reasons I always struggle with the parable we discussed yesterday is because the text goes directly from giving us an unfaithful steward as an example to talking about being a faithful steward. I think we need to see this point about faithful stewardship as Point 2 in Jesus’s brief sermon about stewardship of finances. The first point: use your stewardship as a blessing to others, and blessing means helping them get to eternal dwellings. The second point: be faithful with the stewardship. That is, do what the Master wants with the things that belong to Him. Otherwise, He won’t welcome you into eternal dwellings. We have a tendency to think all the money that flows through our hands in this life is a really, really big deal. But Jesus explains our house, our car, our clothes, our finances down here on earth are actually very little. In the grand scheme of things, they aren’t really important. It is what is coming in eternity that is the big, big deal. What I find even more amazing is that little statement that is often overlooked. What we have now isn’t even our own. However, if we are faithful in the stewardship of what is God’s right now, in eternity we will be blessed with what is our own. Honestly, I don’t know exactly what that means. I just know I want it. Which gets back to Jesus’s main point. We are stewards. The #1 principle for stewardship is to do what the Master wants done with what belongs to Him. Be faithful to the Master with what belongs to Him.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 16.

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Counting the Cost

Today’s reading is Luke 14.

If we want to be Jesus’s disciple, we must count the cost. We don’t want to be like the fellow who starts to build a house, couldn’t actually afford it, and leaves a half finished monument to his poor planning. The cost? Renouncing everything. Isn’t it interesting that the cost is not paying everything? Even when the fellow we often call the rich, young ruler came to Jesus, Jesus didn’t say, “Sell all you have and give it to Judas my treasurer.” Jesus was no cult leader trying to get rich off the backs of gullible followers. However, this isn’t just about money. This whole teaching was actually based on Jesus’s claim that before we come to Him, we must hate our father, mother, wife, children, siblings, and even our own life. We are giving our allegiance to Jesus. We must be ready to renounce everything, including our family, our livelihood, anything we believe makes up our life right now in our service to Him. In other words, Jesus is to become our life. Renouncing doesn’t mean getting rid of everything. It means renouncing our claim on everything and everything’s claim on us. What is ours becomes His to be disposed of, dispersed, distributed, deposited, destroyed, defended as Jesus sees fit. Am I really willing to hand everything over to Jesus? Is there something in my life that if Jesus asked me to give it up, I’d say, “No.” If so, I need to keep counting. Don’t answer that question thinking, “Well, yes, there are some things I’d never give up, but Jesus would never ask me to give those up.” He may not. But He may. Is Jesus more important to you than anything else? Your reputation, your mother, your house, your spouse, your car, your business, your father, your acclaim, your children, your job, your pleasures, your pursuits, your goals, your desires, your identity, your money, your sexuality, your savings, your trophies, your retirement. We live in a culture that says no one has the right to ask this of us. In fact, no one does…except one. Our Creator, our Savior, our King. The good news is knowing that Jesus only asks of us what is best for us eternally. Understand, this is not really a question of whether you will renounce everything. You will. You already do. There is something in your life that holds sway over everything that might be considered important to you. There is something for which you will sacrifice everything no matter how painful or traumatic. It is different for each of us. Jesus says make it Him. Have you counted the cost?

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It Costs Too Much for the Rich

Today’s reading is Matthew 19.

The rich man asked, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” He was, after all, rich. Good deeds were easy for him in his privileged state. Just name it. “Do you want me to give alms to that guy over there? Do you want me to finance the building of a synagogue? Do you want me to make a donation to Your ministry, Jesus? If it will secure eternal life for me, tell me, and I’ll do it.” The rich man thought his riches would make getting eternal life easier for him, but they didn’t. They made it harder. Why? Because the rich, like the strong, the powerful, the wise, the industrious, the gifted, believe there is something they can do to secure eternal life. They believe they will spend some money, perform some feat, achieve some accomplishment that will secure salvation. The problem is eternal life, while free, costs everything. The admission price to eternal life is admission that I can’t afford the price for eternal life. For many, that admission simply costs too much. Jesus tells the rich man, “This thing you think you can offer to pay for your eternal life, you need to get rid of it, and instead follow Me.” Is there something you keep trying to offer to God as payment for eternal life? Realize that by that approach, the cost is too high for you. Count it as loss. Lay it at the cross. Follow Jesus. He is the only one that can afford the price. He has already paid it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 20.

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