|Yesterday, I based my sermon on Mark 12 when Jesus told his listeners to beware of the scribes. These religious leaders used their position and authority for their personal gain. In the process, apparently, they preyed on widows. Instead of helping and caring for them, they took advantage of them. Jesus said those men can expect the “greater condemnation” (Mark 12:40).
Think about why someone might use a widow. They’re an easy target. Who else is going to protect them?
Now, let’s change direction. Think about why a widow might use the church.
That’s the context of our reading today. Of course, widows were women who lost their husbands to death. The biblical idea of a widow goes further. These are the women who have lost their husbands and have no one else to care for them. Their family is in no position to provide for them. They have no sons they can rely on. For all practical purposes, they have nothing.
But not every widow was in that position. Some had families. They may not have had everything they did before, but they were alright. It was these widows who were taking advantage of the church. This was a specific example the apostle Paul talked about in 1 Timothy. It could be these were part of a group of women causing trouble in the congregation at Ephesus.
There are a couple of lessons I take from their situation.
The first is that whether it’s religious leaders or widows, people are people. Our tendency is to think of our own good. We prioritize what we want and make every effort to get it. Is there any hope we can overcome that? Yes! Part of the good news is learning how different life is in God’s reign. So, Jesus tells us to beware of the religious leaders and Paul tells us how to truly take care of each other.
With God’s help, we are a new creation.
That leads us to the second lesson.
When Paul instructs Timothy about the cheating widows, there’s an assumption he makes. The church will take care of its needy. God’s church becomes God’s agent of care.
And as we learn to live in the reality of God’s reign, we learn to trust God more. The more we trust God, the more we know God will provide for us. There’s no need to take advantage of other people. I don’t need to worry about getting ahead. I’ll have all that I need.
So, we are God’s way of providing for others. We are also to stand up for those in need and against those who would abuse the church’s generosity. People are people. But God’s people are God’s people!
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