Luke 20.45-21.4 (Nothing like this around here, right?)

In the hearing of all the people Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of the lawyers who like to walk up and down in long robes, and have a great liking for respectful greetings in the street, the chief seats in our synagogues, and places of honor at feasts. These are the men who eat up the property of widows, while they say long prayers for appearance’ sake; and they will receive the severest sentence.”

He looked up and saw the rich people dropping their gifts into the chest of the Temple treasury; and he noticed a poor widow putting in two tiny coins. “I tell you this,” he said: “This poor widow has given more than any of them; for those others have more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all she had to live on.”

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4 responses

  1. It is all too easy to read the second part as: “Wasn’t this a wonderful example, set by this poor widow?”

    But how literal might this be: “all that she had to live on”?

    Widows, in Jesus’ time, are typically dependent on their husband’s family being willing (and able) to either take them in, or return them their dowries. Which could be a long, awkward process, perhaps requiring intervention by those very “lawyers who eat up the property of widows” referred to above.

    These two mentions of ‘widows’ may well be less accidental, less ‘thrown together by category,’ than I’d been assuming, at first. What if those “long prayers for appearance sake” serve to disguise a customary form of bribery?

    Is this last, desperate donation analogous to a modern American’s purchase of a lottery ticket?

    1. It’s always unsettling to hear a new reading of an old parable, but this is interesting.

      1. William Herzog is good for this kind of reading. Sometimes I think he misses the point — but usually I find him helpful. NT Wright also, from a different direction.

        When people are too sure “what this Means” they miss much of the potential wealth in these books…

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