A Important Message about Giving - Doing it The Lord's Way
Though we greatly appreciate the heart of all those who wish to contribute financially to the Lord's work through Yeshua's Harvest, we ask that no one give to this work from a position of creating debt to do so or from their last resources. We believe that the Scripture makes it plain that we should avoid taking on debt. We also believe that the Scriptures admonish us to take care of those in need and not take from them.
The Scripture often used as an example of generous giving and the willingness to give even the last pennies to the Lord in a demonstration of faith is the passage popularly known as the "widow's mite," which is found in Mark Chapter 12 and Luke Chapter 21.
A close examination of the context of these passages demonstrates that the Lord never commended the widow for giving her last two cents, but rather that He used it as an example of how the religious were "devouring widow's houses."
The unfortunate chapter division between Luke 20 and Luke 21 leads many to ignore the context and the set-up for the Lord's comments about the widow. But look at the whole passage in context,
45 "And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, 46“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
1And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. 2 And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. 3 And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; 4 for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” 5 And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, 6 “As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.”
Likewise in Mark 12:38-44 we read,
38 "In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, 39 and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.” 41 And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. 43 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
Notice that in both accounts, Yeshua neither commends nor criticizes the woman. He simply states an observation. The text even tells us that He was observing how people were putting money into the treasury. But if we look back at the immediate context, we see the reason why. He had just warned the disciples about the scribes who devour widows' houses. And so watching the treasury, He simply points out an example of such a practice. Also, notice that the next thing recorded is Yeshua telling His disciples that the Temple would be destroyed. There really is no sense in any of the passage that the Lord was blessing or commending anything here, rather just the opposite.
If one goes back further in each passage, we even see that the larger context is the Lord exposing the hypocrisy of the religious authorities. It is in this context that we can understand how the Lord is pointing out such a practice.
For the Torah commanded them to take special care of widows and orphans.
"You shall not afflict any widow or orphan."
"At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. 29 "The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do."
"You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow's garment in pledge."
"When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow."
"When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied." 13 "You shall say before the LORD your God, 'I have removed the sacred portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed or forgotten any of Your commandments".
And these are just a few of the examples of the commandments. The Lord takes the plight of the orphan and widow very seriously. He even cursed those who would do them wrong.
'Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'
The prophets cried out against those who took advantage of the orphan and widow.
26 "Behold, the rulers of Israel, each according to his power, have been in you for the purpose of shedding blood. 27 "They have treated father and mother lightly within you. The alien they have oppressed in your midst; the fatherless and the widow they have wronged in you."
"Your rulers are rebels And companions of thieves; Everyone loves a bribe And chases after rewards. They do not defend the orphan, Nor does the widow's plea come before them."
So shall we think that the Lord was actually pleased with what was happening when He saw the poor widow give 'all she had' to the temple treasury? If that was all she had, shouldn't they have been taking care of her?
To make matters worse, the Messiah, her savior was sitting nearby, and she likely walked right passed Him without recognizing Him. He had just entered the city with great fanfare. The people of Jerusalem knew He was there. The widow would have at least heard of Him. But instead of coming to Him, she went to the treasury, a place about which she was no doubt taught that she needed to give for the Lord's work to be blessed. This is, in and of itself, not a bad thing. But it reminds us of the passage in Matthew 12:6 when the Lord tells the religious,
6 "But I say to you that something greater than the Temple is here. 7 "But if you had known what this means, 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent."
So can there be any doubt that we should also avoid all practices of taking from those in greatest need, even to do the Lord's work? For as James 1:27 tells us,
"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
The Lord's work is really loving our neighbor, loving and caring for one another, especially those in greatest need, and especially for those of the household of faith.
Therefore, we encourage those who consider partnering with Yeshua's Harvest Ministries to make sure that such giving does not take the last pennies from anyone in greater need. Instead, we pray for those whom the Lord has blessed with abundance to share with the widows and orphans. This is one reason we believe that supporting believers and ministries in Israel is such a great blessing. Many of them, such as Ot' Ha Mofet, support widows, orphans, strangers, and those who find it hardest to provide for themselves.