41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
In Jesus’ day, if you had asked people, “Who do you look to for spiritual leadership? Who are your spiritual role models?”, people would have likely named prominent, religious “experts” like the Pharisees or perhaps the Scribes. These men were the cultural influencers and thought leaders. They were the ancient equivalent of New York Times best-selling authors; prominent and popular religious celebrities that were believed to be the authorities that sincere, devout believers should seek to follow and emulate.
Jesus rewrites the script dramatically.
“Guys, come over here. Did you see that poor, widowed woman? She just gave more to God than everyone else, because although her amount was small compared to everyone else’s, they were giving out of their wealth. She, from a place of poverty, gave her whole life.”
Notice that Jesus not only rejects the religious leaders/experts as spiritual role models (he actually condemns their leadership and “expertise” in Mark 12:38-40), he points to someone who by every conventional metric has the least to offer in terms of spiritual authority, influence and expertise: A poor, widowed woman.
Jesus wants the disciples to learn from a woman...who is poor…and widowed? Why? How? In the context of the first-century this woman is second-class, impoverished, and lacking any meaningful social capital or cultural influence.
What kind of kingdom is Jesus inviting us into, that a poor, widowed woman is a role model for faithful discipleship?!
There’s an important lesson here. Those that the world dismisses as irrelevant, unworthy, insufficient, damaged, and useless are often the very people through whom God’s kingdom breaks into this world.
This is precisely the reason Paul encourages the early church in Rome to “be willing to associate with people of low position” (Romans 12:16). And its a truth that is reinforced by Paul in his first letter to the early church in Corinth:
1 Corinthians 1:26–29
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
The kingdom that Jesus is building is built through “lost causes” and “nobodies.” That’s an essential part of the gospel (i.e. good news). We are all lost causes spiritually speaking. We can’t rescue or save ourselves from the power of sin. But Jesus comes to deal with our sin issue by dying for us, in our place. But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus is resurrected and enthroned as King and Lord over all things, so that those who turn their lives over to him can be saved into a new kind of life. A life God begins using within His mission to mend the world and overcome evil.
Weak, insignificant nobodies–in the hands of Jesus–become strong, significant somebodies. No expertise required.
Is there better news than that?