November 7, 2021
1 Kings 17:10-16
When my maternal grandfather died, my mom had to settle his estate. Working with a lawyer that was pretty close to my grandfather’s age, it was a slow but thorough process. At one point, my mom was told by the lawyer that her father had stopped paying taxes a few years prior to his death. He had told his lawyer, “I’ve paid enough. I’m done paying taxes.” Fortunately, the state of New York agreed and the settlement with the estate was pretty light.
Prior to observing the poor widow pay her Temple Tax, Jesus tells the crowd, “beware of the scribes … they devour the house of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.” Jesus separates the behavior of the scribes, those that, among other duties, upheld the Temple Tax, and the behavior of the widow. We aren’t told the widow’s age but in my mind I see a very poor, very old woman, slowly making her way to the treasury to pay her tax. Unlike my grandfather, she never said, “I’ve paid enough. I’m done paying the tax.” Unlike the state of New York, the scribes at the Temple offered no relief for an old, poor widow.
But Jesus sides with the widow. Not only did she give, she gave without counting the cost to her personal welfare. The Temple Tax was used for maintenance and upkeep, and to pay the scribes. The scribes were pharisees that were known for their extensive knowledge of the Law. Those scribes, paid from the treasury, profited from the poor woman’s contributions, taking from her what little she had. Jesus, siding against the scribes, says, “they will receive the greater condemnation.”
In the legal tax battle between the poor and the learned, Jesus chooses to side with the poor. In any battle or opportunity, I should do the same. Advocate for the poor, support them, work with them, get involved, and do what I can to ease their burdens and any injustices against them—financially, politically, and socially. If we are Christians—followers of Christ, imitators of Christ—we must imitate him in all ways, and do much more in service of the impoverished.
Lord Jesus, you looked upon the poverty of the widow and saw humble obedience and faith. You looked upon the power of the elite and saw arrogance and hardened hearts. May I, like you, choose to side with the humble, the poor, the oppressed, and live as a true imitator of your love. Amen