38As Jesus taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
41He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Does talking about money in church make you uncomfortable? If so, you’re probably not alone in that sentiment and that discomfort is not entirely unfounded. A lot of people in church leadership across the world have misused the gifts of the faithful and acted with shady intentions when it comes to church offerings. We read about mega-church pastors who demand that Jesus promised them a $100-million private jet and we become rightly skeptical. Or we hear about a church official arrested for embezzlement and our heart feels sorrowful. We also look around at churches or denominations who seem to sit upon large sums of money, refusing to use all at their disposal for ministry.
And yet, we cannot let these bad examples sour us on the reality that money and faithfulness to God go together. Now, first of all, we should not be concerned with what any person gives other than what we give ourselves. God has blessed us financially to be a blessing to others. Giving financially is a responsibility for every person of faith so that the work of the kingdom might be done on earth. Our good stewardship of our resources – financial and other types of resources – is what fuels the good work of the Church in the world. We need to consider, individually and communally, how we use our resources for God’s glory.
As a full-time pastor, I am very aware of the fact that people’s financial gifts to the church pay my salary and benefits. It is humbling to think of that fact. I am grateful for the gifts that allow me to devote my full-time energies to serving in the church. Everything we do as the church, from our food pantry to children’s ministries – and all ministries in between – is funded by the gifts of the faithful. Our commitment to those who give is that we, as the church, will be good stewards of what is given. And we, as the faithful of God, make the commitment to give so that the work of the church might spread the message and grace of Jesus Christ.
How is God calling you to give financially to the work of the kingdom? This is an important question for every person who is called by the name of Jesus Christ – clergy and laity alike. We are all called to give according to what has been given to us. Furthermore, how is God calling you to give in other ways beyond finances to that same work? When the faithful give with pure hearts and when the church uses those gifts wisely, then financial stewardship can be a beautiful, impactful act.
Track what you spend this week and then look back over that record at the end of the week. What do your expenses say about your priorities? How might your expenses become a testimony to God’s work in your life? Work through your thoughts and feelings about money and how good stewardship of your finances might align your actions with your life purposes. At the end of your journal entry, write out a prayer and ask God to guide you in being a good steward in the coming week
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Cloud of Witnesses:
United Methodist Missionaries
Did you know that the United Methodist Church has an active missionary community, persons who give of themselves sacrificially to bring the Gospel to people around the world. According to the website of the General Board of Global Ministries (headquartered right here in Georgia, on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta): “In more than 60 countries around the world, United Methodist missionaries come from many places and backgrounds and witness and serve in dramatically different locales and cultures. They engage in a range of activities and professions including pastors, educators, congregational and leadership developers, regional coordinators for UMCOR, agriculturalists, health coordinators, and doctors.” Clink here to read about our missionaries and their work. Consider how you might support them with your prayers and gifts.
Listen to the song, Freely, Freely written by Carol Owens. You can purchase the Maranatha version here if you’d like. You can also find the song in the United Methodist Hymnal (#389). As you listen and sing, remember that our act of giving is inspired and enabled by the selfless, sacrificial giving of our Lord. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Jesus cared deeply for the poor and we should regularly pray for them in both words and actions. But this week, I want us to pray for the rich. Does that sound difficult?! What could they possibly need?! Pray that they will have generous hearts, mercy and understanding when dealing with the less fortunate, and sober judgments. Ask God to give them a spiritual burden for the poor. Pray that they do not fall into the temptations of greed, opulence, and oppression. Trust that the God who loves both the rich and the poor (and all those in the middle!) will use our resources to accomplish great acts of transformation in our world!
This week, visit the Global Rich List. There, you can enter your yearly income and see how you compare to the rest of the world. You can also see how your hourly rate stacks up against the hourly rates of workers other countries. It is a sobering experience when you realize that, regardless of your income in America, you are one of the richest people in the world. Wealth is not an inherently negative thing. It is how you use your wealth that is important. As you ponder what all of this means for your life and your faith in Christ, pray for the poor. Imagine Christ next to you as you look at the results from that website. Perhaps even hold your checkbook or wallet in your hands, asking Christ to hold it with you. How is Christ calling you to share your portion of God’s heavenly riches?
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- How has God blessed you?
- How have others been generous to you?
- How have you been called to give generously?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Give. It doesn’t have to be big, but give selflessly to someone this week. Even better, make it anonymous. Identify a need around you and engage in active generosity. Every act of generosity, no matter how big or small, brings us closer to God’s kingdom. Remember that Jesus honors gifts that might seem small to others, like a cup of cold water to the thirsty or a visit to the lonely or forgotten (Matthew 25).
Breath Prayer: LORD God, we give our whole selves to you.