And He said to them, "How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David? Now David himself said in the Book of Psalms:
'The Lord said to my Lord,Therefore David calls Him 'Lord'; how is He then his Son?"
"Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."'
Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, "Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation."
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had."
- Luke 20:41-21:4
Yesterday we read that some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Jesus in the Temple and asked Him, saying: "Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her as wife, and he died childless. Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife." Jesus answered and said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord 'the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him." Then some of the scribes answered and said, "Teacher, You have spoken well." But after that they dared not question Him anymore.
And He said to them, "How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David? Now David himself said in the Book of Psalms: 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool."' Therefore David calls Him 'Lord'; how is He then his Son?" Jesus has just finished revealing that the Scriptures proclaim God is the God of the living and not the dead, for all live to Him (see above). Here, He opens another Scripture, for them to truly hear; but it is a kind of riddle. He poses it as a question. David writes, "The Lord said to my Lord . . . ." The first reference to the Lord refers to God the Father, but the term my Lord refers to Christ. Christ is the Son of David in His humanity. He is also David's Lord in His divinity.
Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, "Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation." Matthew's Gospel includes a lengthy final public sermon given here in the Temple which was a grand critique of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:1-39). Luke's Gospel includes this critique of the scribes, which we note is said in the hearing of all the people. It contains several of the criticisms Jesus levels in the longer sermon in Matthew. In particular we note a life of what we might call social ambition, a life for show, people absorbed in externals, and thereby blindly self-righteous: the long robes, the greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues and the best places at feasts. And then there is the hypocrisy and greed mixed in: they devour widows' houses. And for a pretense they make long prayers. We can just imagine the response of the crowds to this open condemnation and pronouncement of judgment on the scribes. My study bible adds that while these charges were directed against the Jewish leaders of Jesus' time, every word applies equally to those in the Church who behave this way.
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had." According to traditional understanding, God values our gifts not by how much is given, but by how much is kept back. So this poor widow is counted to have given a great gift, having kept nothing for herself. Others who give out of their abundance keep plenty back for themselves; in this perspective their gift is far less.
One way we can look at today's reading is to contrast the behavior of the scribes (as described by Jesus) with that of the poor widow. The scribes operate on the surface of life, and seem to have as goals a world of 'good appearances,' so to speak. They crave the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, their long robes and long prayers made for show. What they want is a sort of social standing that operates as a mask of piety -- while they "devour widows' houses." And here is the poor widow herself, who gives all she has to the treasury of the Temple. She's as different from the scribes as she can be. But what the text doesn't say, but implies, is that she is whole-hearted in her giving and her love for God. There is nothing phony or pretentious about her. She is giving all that she has. And while the wealthy may make a great show of their donations, hers is a very small amount indeed. It is Christ who observes and draws attention to her donation, which is all she has. She cannot pretend a piety for show, she cannot command the best seats in the synagogue nor greetings in the marketplace, and she can't wear long robes for show. All she has is her small gift, a tiny sum of money. But her real gift isn't just all the money she has; her gift is representative of the all that she is, all that she has, a heart devoted to God. What we can assume is that her whole life is given over to God. To live in spiritual poverty is to live as she does. In the Greek, we can contrast the words that describe the wealthy givers as those who give out of their "excess," while she gives out of her "lack." She really doesn't have enough to cover her own needs, and does without -- and yet she gives. This can only be a gift of love. When you come to that place where you don't have anything to give, and yet you find yourself giving, you are in a place of depth of relationship to God, to God who is love and responding with love. This is where we find even what we don't have in order to give. It's a strange sounding paradox, but a true sense of spiritual poverty ("Blessed are the poor in spirit" - Matthew 5:3) is that place where we find we have something to give when it seems that everything is exhausted. That is the place of real grace, a place where we find our connection to God. It doesn't matter exactly what one gives, but the fullness of the heart given to God puts us in the place where we find the kingdom -- and more to give that we didn't know we had. That would include more strength, more encouragement, more inspiration -- all gifts. How can you give more to God? Where is the place where you find Him and seek His direction? Let us consider how such humility keeps us from the false life He criticizes in the scribes. How is this poor widow "full" in ways that even the wealthy are not? How much is her worth?