Did you know that the Holy Week teachings of Jesus, which are often described as “the Olivet Discourse,” were prompted by some disciples who were celebrating the magnificence of the temple buildings and their elaborate decor fueled by donations?
Ironically, this took place immediately after Jesus downplayed the gifts of rich people and celebrated the sacrifice of the widow. It appears that they did not have ears to hear his “truly” statement. See for yourself.
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” (Luke 21:1-6)
Notice two things from the response of our Lord. They are fitting points for Christian workers to remember as we interface with givers and because want to be attentive to what He wants us to hear.
A Focus on What is Not Given
Disciples (that includes us) tend to look at the size of gifts; Jesus looks at what people don’t give.
Jesus only celebrates when people give sacrificially, when we hold back nothing from God. So, while the disciples were focused on how big gifts had paid for buildings with beautiful stones, there was something more captivating to Jesus: a widow who gave out of her poverty all she had to live on. This prompts us to make sure that we as Christian workers encourage sacrificial generous giving like the widow, when our temptation is to celebrate the size of gifts from rich people. How can we do this?
We must sow biblical truth in the lives of people. God’s Word is living and active; it transforms cautious contributors into generous givers. Practically speaking, we must encourage everyone to measure giving proportionately, as God supplies, so that the giving is acceptable to God (2 Corinthians 8:12). We do well also to show the impact of a wide range of gifts to send a clear message that sacrificial gifts of varying sizes are equally important. Lastly, let us urge people to hold back nothing like the widow. The examples of Barnabas next to Ananias and Sapphira also illustrate this (Acts 4:32-5:11).
A Fixation on the Eternal
Disciples often focus on earthly things like buildings; Jesus wants our gaze fixed on eternal matters.
Times would get hard. Jesus knew the lifespan of those buildings was short. Within a generation, they’d be gone. In response, He wanted them to focus on something bigger than the buildings. There was a bigger story unfolding. He wanted them to understand that the pathway to life would be marked by persecution and difficult times. The same is true today.
But why beckon people to think about eternal things?
He wanted them to stand fast and not be thrown down like those stones would soon be. So, His instructions for them relate well to us in turbulent times: be watchful and prayerful. This is the role of attentive disciples today. We remind people not to get comfortable here on earth because all we see will soon pass away.
Let It All Go
What if we hold nothing back from God and remain watchful and prayerful?
When we live in light of what Jesus says is true in Luke 21, two things happen. Firstly, by holding nothing back, Jesus sees our sacrificial giving, and our obedience entrusts our existence into His loving care. Secondly, when we remain watchful and prayerful, He promises that we escape both anxieties and troubles. That’s life-giving news in crazy times. Put it to practice in your life, and share it with all those you serve as a Christian worker.
This article was originally posted on the Christian Leadership Alliance Blog on 31 March 2021.