daily biblical sermons


Let us take our delight in the Lord so that our hearts may be attached to him
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, 34th Week of the Year, November 25, 2019
Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20, Daniel 3, Luke 21:1-4


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“He [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had’” (Luke 21:1-4).

 

 

Today Jesus points out the example of a poor widow who cast into the temple treasury a very small contribution, two lepta. “Lepta were small copper coins, the smallest currency available, whose value was one eighth of a penny. Ellis computes the value as one one-hundredth of a denarius, thus one one-hundredth of the average daily wage – a very small sum indeed!” (Darrell L Bock, Luke (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Baker Academic, 1996), page 1645).

 

 

Although “many rich people put in large sums” (Mark 12:41), Jesus called his disciples together and pointed out this poor widow to them, saying, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living she had” (Luke 21:3-4).

 

 

The difference between this poor widow’s contribution and that of many wealthy people was that this woman gave her whole self, her whole life to God, and this is what makes her tiny offering of much more value than the large offerings of the rich. The Greek says that she cast in “all the bion [life or living or means of subsistence] that she had.” (Luke 21:4). St. Mark says that she cast in “all her bion [life or means of subsistence]” (Mark 12:44).

 

 

So the important point for Jesus is not the amount of money as such but rather what it cost her, namely that she gave her whole self, her whole life, all that she had, her whole means of subsistence to the Lord by giving it to the temple treasury to pay for the sacrifices. God does not so much value the money that we give, but rather the gift of our whole self to him, even if it is only one one-hundredth of a daily wage (of a denarius). For Jesus, far more important than giving a large sum of money for the Lord’s service is giving one’s whole self, one’s whole life, everything one has to the Lord and living for him alone with all your time, energy, and work.

 

 

This is a beautiful ideal that Jesus places before us today on this last week of the liturgical year, as we are preparing ourselves now for the first Sunday of Advent next Sunday. William MacDonald says, “They [the rich] gave some, but she gave all” (Believers Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1989), page 1446, emphasis added). Jesus recommends this poor widow to us as our model for how to live in a new and holy way. Our lives should be totally dedicated to the Lord. We should give our whole self to him.

 

 

Isn’t this what Jesus said to the rich young man who sought to live a more perfect life, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21)? He is telling this rich young man not to live for money, for he had great possessions, but to live completely for the Lord and follow Jesus with all his time and effort and become one of his intimate disciples. This is the way of perfection for those who seek it, and Jesus tells his disciples that the rich will not easily enter the kingdom of God if they continue to live for their money and possessions, saying, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24).

 

 

If you put your heart in your money and in making money, that is where your heart will be. But it should be in the Lord. The Lord and he alone should be your treasure, and that is where your heart should be, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). In fact, Jesus tells us not to organize our life around earthly treasures and money, but rather to be totally devoted to the Lord and use our money – in excess of what we need to live – in his service, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

 

 

This poor widow certainly had no earthly treasures. Her only treasure was the Lord, and that’s where her heart was. Her heart was not in earthly things, but in the Lord. So how should we, then, live if we are going to follow her example? We should live a simple life, not making the piling up of money, but rather the service of the Lord the main goal of our life and work, for if you are devoting yourself to piling up more and more money, then money is your main goal in life, and you will fail to love the Lord with all your heart and soul. This is because you cannot serve both God and mammon, which is earthly wealth and the pleasures it buys us. Indeed “no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

 

 

Serving only one master will then enable us to fulfill the greatest of all the commandments, which is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). And then we should spend our time serving our neighbor, for that is the second greatest commandment: “The second [greatest commandment] is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12:31).

 

 

This is a totally new way of life. It is living no longer for ourselves but for the Lord with all the love of our heart, for “he [Jesus] died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

 

 

So Jesus praises those who abandon everything of this world for his sake, saying, “Every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).

 

 

So what we really should do is try to lose our life in this world by using our time, talents, energy, effort, and money in the service of the Lord, rather than in the service of ourselves, “for whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35).

 

 

We should lose our life serving the Lord and our neighbor rather than serving ourselves. And how do we lose our life? We do so by denying ourselves unnecessary worldly pleasures, entertainments, luxurious fine dining and high living for the love of the Lord, for Jesus said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34 NKJV).

 

 

But if we try to save ourselves in a false way by piling up our worldly pleasures, luxurious living, and fine dining, we will lose our life, “for whoever would save his life will lose it” (Mark 8:35). Saving our life here means saving our life in a false, worldly way by trying to cram into our life has many worldly pleasures as possible. If we do that, we will lose our life in this deepest sense.

 

 

But if we lose our life for Christ’s sake and for the gospel’s sake, then we will save it. So we must truly live a countercultural life, very much contrary to the way that most people today want to live. We should be crucified to their worldly values, as St. Paul says, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

 

 

We should therefore be crucified to a worldly way of living, to worldly fine dining, entertainments, recreations, pastimes, and other worldly pursuits unworthy of a Christian who has offered his whole life to the Lord like this poor widow. We should be crucified to all that, crucified to the world, as St. Paul was.

 

 

We should not be of the world any more than Jesus was of the world. We should be in the world to save the world, to preach to the world, to give good example to the world, to preach salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to the world; but we should not be worldly, that is, we should not be of the world, we should not live a worldly, pleasure-centered life.

 

 

But if we do this, the world will hate us, because we despise and reject its false values. When worldly people see us, they will hate us, as Jesus told us they would, “I have given them [his disciples] thy word [O Father]; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14). Jesus’ disciples are to live in the world in order to minister to the world and to preach to the world, but are not to be of the world, as Jesus says, “I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

 

 

If we are to minister to the world, we have to be in the world as Jesus was in the world, but that does not mean that we are to be worldly, that is, of the world. So the world will hate us and our very different way of life. But if we were worldly ourselves, the world would love us, as Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).

 

 

So let us take this poor widow as our model of how we should live, giving our whole self to the Lord, living for him, and using all our resources, talents, knowledge, energy, work, and money in his service so that we are not of the world but rather in the world, ministering to the world.

 

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