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Humble Hero

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    The Priceless Gift of the Poor Widow

    Christ severely condemned abuses, but He was careful not to lessen obligation. Someone else’s abuse of the gift could not turn God’s blessing from the giver.HH 284.7

    Jesus was in the court and watched those who came to deposit their gifts. Many of the rich brought large sums with great show. Jesus looked at them sadly but made no comment on their liberal offerings. Soon His face lit up as He saw a poor widow approach hesitatingly, as though afraid of being observed. She looked at the gift in her hand. It was very small in comparison with the gifts of those around her, yet it was everything she had. She quickly threw in her two mites [“small copper coins,” NRSV] and turned to hurry away. But in doing this she caught the eye of Jesus, which was fastened earnestly on her.HH 284.8

    The Savior told His disciples to notice the widow’s poverty. Then His words of approval fell on her ear: “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all.” Tears of joy filled her eyes as she felt that her act was appreciated. Many would have advised her to keep her tiny offering for her own use; it would disappear among the many costly gifts brought to the treasury. But she believed the service of the temple to be established by God, and she was anxious to do all in her power to sustain it. She did what she could, and her act was to be a monument to her memory through all time and her joy in eternity.HH 285.1

    She “has put in more than all.” The large donations of the rich had required no sacrifice. They could not compare in value with the widow’s mites.HH 285.2

    Motive gives character to our acts, stamping them with disgrace or with high moral worth. Little duties cheerfully done, little gifts that make no show, often stand highest in God’s sight. The poor widow deprived herself of food in order to give those two copper coins to the cause she loved. And she did it in faith, believing that her heavenly Father would not overlook her need. This unselfish spirit and childlike faith won the Savior’s approval.HH 285.3

    Many among the poor long to show their gratitude to God for His grace and truth. Let them deposit their mites in the bank of heaven. If given from a heart filled with love for God, these seemingly insignificant gifts become priceless offerings that God smiles on and blesses.HH 285.4

    When Jesus said of the widow, she “has put in more than all,” His words were true, not only of the motive, but of the results of her gift. The “two small copper coins, which are worth a penny” (NRSV) have brought to God’s treasury an amount of money far greater than the contributions of those rich Jews. That little gift has been like a stream, widening and deepening through the ages. In a thousand ways it has contributed to the relief of the poor and the spread of the gospel. Her example of self-sacrifice has acted and reacted on thousands of hearts in every land and in every age. God’s blessing on the widow’s mite has made it the source of great results. So it is with every gift given with a sincere desire for God’s glory. No one can measure its results for good.HH 285.5

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” Christ did not set aside the obligation itself. The tithing system, established by God, was observed from earliest times. Abraham paid tithes of all that he possessed. As God gave it, the system was fair and reasonable, but the priests and rabbis had made it a wearisome burden.HH 285.6

    The Pharisees were very exact in tithing garden herbs such as mint, anise, and rue. This cost little and gave them a reputation for exactness and sanctity. At the same time, they neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy, and truth. “These,” Christ said, “you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”HH 286.1

    The rabbis had perverted other laws in a similar way. In the directions God gave through Moses, the use of swine’s flesh and of certain other animals was prohibited, because they were likely to fill the blood with impurities and to shorten life. But the Pharisees went to unjustified extremes. They required the people to strain all the water used, in case it might contain the smallest insect that could be classed with the unclean animals. Contrasting these trivial requirements with the magnitude of actual sins, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”HH 286.2

    “You are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” The whited and beautifully decorated tomb concealed the putrefying remains within. Similarly, the outward holiness of the priests and rulers concealed iniquity.HH 286.3

    Jesus continued, “You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”HH 286.4

    People at that time cherished a superstitious regard for the tombs of the dead and lavished vast sums of money on decorating them. In the sight of God this was idolatry. It showed that they did not love God supremely nor their neighbor as themselves. Today, many neglect the widows and the fatherless, the sick and the poor, in order to build expensive monuments for the dead. Duties to the living—duties which Christ has plainly commanded—they leave undone.HH 286.5

    The Pharisees said one to another, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have united with them in shedding the blood of God’s servants.” At the same time they were planning to take the life of His Son. This should open our eyes to the power of Satan to deceive any mind that turns away from the light of truth. Many are amazed at the blindness of the Jews in rejecting Christ. If we had lived in His day, they declare, we would never have been guilty of rejecting the Savior. But when obedience to God requires self-denial and humiliation, these very people refuse obedience. They reveal the same spirit as did the Pharisees.HH 286.6

    Little did the Jews realize the terrible responsibility involved in rejecting Christ. In every age, prophets had lifted up their voices against the sins of kings, rulers, and people, obeying God’s will at the risk of their lives. A terrible punishment had been building up for the rejecters of light and truth. By rejecting the Savior, the priests and rulers were making themselves responsible for the blood of all the righteous killed from Abel to Christ. They were about to fill their cup of iniquity to overflowing. And soon it was to be poured on their heads in their just punishment. Jesus warned them about this:HH 286.7

    “That on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”HH 287.1

    The scribes and Pharisees knew how the prophet Zechariah had been killed. While God’s words of warning were on his lips, a satanic fury came over the rebellious king, and at his command the prophet was put to death. See 2 Chronicles 24:18-22. His blood had stained the very stones of the temple court and remained to bear witness against rebellious Israel. As long as the temple stood, there would be the stain of that righteous blood, crying to God to be avenged. As Jesus referred to these fearful sins, a chill of horror ran through the crowd.HH 287.2

    Looking forward, Jesus declared that the Jews would be as unrepentant in the future as they had been in the past:HH 287.3

    “Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city.” With hand uplifted to heaven and a divine light surrounding Him, Christ spoke as a judge, in rebuke and condemnation. The listeners shuddered. The impression that His words and His look made would never fade away.HH 287.4

    Christ directed His indignation against the major sins by which the leaders were destroying their own souls, deceiving the people, and dishonoring God. But He spoke no words of retaliation. He showed no irritated temper. The face of the Son of God revealed divine pity as He took one lingering look at the temple and then at His hearers. In a voice choked by anguish and bitter tears He exclaimed, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” In Christ’s lament the very heart of God poured forth. It was the mysterious farewell of the Deity’s longsuffering love.HH 287.5

    Pharisees and Sadducees alike were silenced. Jesus called His disciples to Him and prepared to leave the temple, not as someone defeated, but as someone whose work was done. He withdrew from the contest as the victor.HH 287.6

    In many hearts that eventful day, new thoughts started into life and a new history began. After the Crucifixion and Resurrection, these persons came forward with wisdom and zeal. They bore a message that appealed to hearts. In the light of their testimony, human theories and philosophies became like idle fables.HH 287.7

    But Israel as a nation had divorced herself from God. Looking for the last time on the interior of the temple, Jesus said with mournful tones, “See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ “ When the Son of God went out from those walls, God’s presence would be withdrawn forever from the temple built for His glory. Its ceremonies would be meaningless, its services a mockery.HH 288.1

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