Devotions

Devotions

 

Memory Verse of The Week

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16, ESV)


Monday

Sacrifice and Exploitation

Kendra Intihar

Today’s Scripture: “Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.’” (Mark 12:43-44, NIV).

Theme: Sharing is more about your heart than it is about your gift.

THE WIDOW’S MITE

Once, while Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, He saw an impoverished widow deposit her last two copper coins into the temple treasury. “Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on’” (Mark 12:43-44, NIV). You, like me, have very likely been taught that this story is about the generosity of the widow and her sacrificial gift.

But that’s not all this story is about.

HEADERS, CHAPTERS, and VERSES

Prior to the 1500’s, each book of the Bible read as a single narrative story. There were no chapter and verse enumerations. There were no passage headings (with the exception of the Psalms)–it was just a flowing text: paragraph after paragraph without numbers to split them up. The chapters, verses, and headings were inserted later into the text to aid the reader, and they are truly a remarkable and wonderful study tool. But in passages like “The Widow’s Mite,” we miss part of the story when we let the headers break it up for us.

If we back up to verses 38-40, we see something we might otherwise miss: Jesus was teaching that the religious elite “devour widow’s houses” with their relentless pursuit of wealth and status. And in fact, they did “devour” this particular widow’s house because she gave every penny she had to live on so that these religious leaders could “walk around in flowing robes…be greeted in the marketplaces…and have the places of honor at banquets” (Mark 12:38-39). They were exploiting the poor.

DON’T MISS THE MESSAGE

In the first century, most widows had no rights, no property, and no way of making money. It’s not wrong to give sacrificially, and certainly the Bible teaches us to do just that (see: Romans 15:25-29; Acts 2:44-45; Luke 6:38, etc.), but what’s the main message the Lord was teaching His disciples that day? It’s this: We are called not to hoard wealth, but to share it with the poor. We are called not to pursue status, but to pursue righteousness. We are called not to exploit those already in poverty for their last dime, but to take care of them.

We romanticize the sacrificial gift of the impoverished widow at the temple that day, forgetting that because of the wealthy religious leaders in her district, she should have been the one receiving alms…not the other way around. Jesus was not only elevating the widow’s offering as an example of sacrificial giving, though it surely was that. He was lamenting, like Ezekiel in the Temple, 600 years before Him, “The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice” (Ezekiel 22:29, NIV).

Make it Personal: Go back and read Mark 12:38-44 with fresh eyes. Recall the many, many times Jesus chastised the religious elite for their showiness and hardened hearts. Skip the “header” as you read and consider the words of Jesus in the Temple that day. Ask God where you are spending your wealth on yourself instead of others who are in deep need?

Pray: Father God, let me see Your children as You see them: bearers of Your image, created by Your hand, and wholly beloved by You. Let me live out Jesus’ call to be generous to the poor and to care for “the least of these” in Your Name. Give me the wisdom, discernment, and courage to call exploitation a sin. I know that You have given me a commandment to love my neighbor. Help me to live it out in tangible ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Weekly Memory Verse: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16, ESV)


Read: Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Proverbs 19:17; 1 John 3:17-18
Tuesday

Perspective

Carey Madding

Today’s Scripture: “‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:35-40, ESV)

Theme: Sharing with those in need is the same as if you shared with Jesus.

ELEMENTARY LESSON

Long before kindergarten (and much earlier if you have siblings), the concept of sharing enters our tiny “all-about-me” worlds. The neighbor kid wants our favorite toy...and mom makes us share. The visitor picks up an old and seldom played with doll...and suddenly WE also want to play with it, desperately!

There is little joint creative play at that young age. To a young child is seems they got what we wanted, and so we feel deprived. I have felt exactly like one of my children, who came out of the bedroom with a toy broom and whacked the sibling holding that precious thing. Have you ever felt that way?

PROXIMITY MATTERS

You may have found that it’s definitely easier to share with someone you love. You’ll spend way too much on a gift to show your affection. Or you may sacrifice and do without to help a dear friend in a time of trouble. Your care and concern make the opportunity for generosity a privilege and not a chore.

On the other hand, a pressured "ask” at the office or a panhandler on the street can cause those toddler feelings to rise up anew: “If I share with you, I will be doing without! Sharing with you actually hurts me!”

SHARING WITH JESUS

Maybe our mindsets would be helped by a simple exercise. What if, instead of seeing the homeless man on the corner, we saw Jesus? When hearing about the needs of a single mother, we instead heard His desperate cry for help? What if the foreigner reminded us of Jesus instead of an intruder? What if there was no need for us to judge the person or even the wisdom of sharing, and we just assumed it was Jesus Himself who asked? I have a feeling I would gladly offer my coat, my cash, and a hot meal to Jesus. Then I would beg to be allowed to do more for Him.

Make it Personal: So often, our decisions about generosity start with judgment. This week, look around you. Then, as you see opportunities or hear of needs, ask for wisdom from God on whether or not you should respond to the need. Let the Holy Spirit reveal God’s plan to you. Let Him judge the person and need—and let yourself off the hook. All you need to do is obey as God directs.

Pray: God, I want to have a generous heart. I want to seek Your kingdom and Your will. I want to love others as I love myself, but I am selfish and self-centered. I repent. I ask Your help in changing. Give me a tender heart. Help me look for Jesus in the people around me. Help me serve as if I was serving Him. Help me feed, clothe, and care for those around me as if I were caring for Jesus Himself. I thank You for Your provision for me. I submit it to Your service. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Weekly Memory Verse: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16, ESV)


Read: James 2:14-24; 1 John 3:16-18
Wednesday

Heart Matters

Kimberly Lawrence

Today’s Scripture: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. ‘Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.’” (Matthew 6:1-2, ESV)

Theme: Sharing is done out of love and not for recognition.

LOOK AT ME BEING ALL GENEROUS!

We sure do like to take credit, don’t we? It’s human nature to enjoy recognition and society rewards achievements of all kinds. Social media further magnifies our need to be reaffirmed as we monitor the “likes” and comments on our Facebook and Instagram posts. We revel in the validation of our success but sometimes veil it as “just sharing” the good news of our promotions, the brilliance of our children, and the general “perfection” of our daily lives. We are conditioned to want to hear “good job” from the time we are children. Students, athletes, and employees are all rewarded by some other person’s assessment and confirmation that they have done well. We even want people to know when we are out “doing good work.” We stand a little taller and take a posture of confidence when we feel validated.

MOTIVATION MATTERS

When I pay for the person’s meal behind me in the Chic-fil-A drive-thru, it gives me a rush of happiness! But why do I also feel the urge to tell my neighbor? Is it because I will feel even better when someone else gives me credit? When a friend is talking about their tithe or charitable giving, do I consider all of the good work that will result from it or do I secretly compare my giving to see how it stacks up?

How would our behavior be different if we focused simply on service…without the recognition? It’s difficult! We need to fight our sinful nature which desires worldly acknowledgement; we need to pray that, through our acts, others will come to know the Savior.

God tells us the true reward is reserved for the humble. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exhalated” (Luke 14:11, ESV). The motivation of all giving should be how the Father is glorified, not how we improve our reputation with others.

A GRATEFUL HEART

I once had a friend tell me that her parents grew up very poor. Because of their meager upbringing, they wanted to instill a sense of gratefulness and charity in the hearts of their children. Every year at Christmas, her and her brother were able to open all of the gifts Santa left for them under the tree. After opening and considering each gift, they were allowed to keep just one. The rest of the gifts were donated to a local charity for children whose families could not afford such extravagances. As a child, my friend said she resented her parents because of it. She felt angry that she couldn’t keep all of the gifts she wanted for herself; the thought of someone else getting them would sometimes bring her to tears.

Over the years, however, her heart changed. She matured spiritually and grew to love what this tradition meant. She finally understood how the sacrifice not only blessed others but brought her closer to God and allowed others to see Him more clearly too. She found true joy in giving.

Make it Personal: Will you consider a truly selfless act this week? It doesn’t have to be “big” or a major financial investment, but make it something that requires your own personal sacrifice. Then, do it with anonymity! When you forego the “credit,” God sees your heart, your act and your gift.

Pray: God, help me fight the urge to bring glory to myself through my acts of service. Instead, let them be in Your Name and for Your glory alone. Give me a spirit of selflessness so that others may see Your love through me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Weekly Memory Verse: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16, ESV)


Read: John 3:30; Philippians 2:3-4
Thursday

Eat to Live or Live to Eat?

Tiffany Haynes

Today’s Scripture: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7, ESV)

Theme: Sharing is best done willingly and cheerfully.

TIME

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. However, what we choose to do with that time is up to us. When you look at your schedule and you plan out your day, who gets the first of those hours?

TALENT

“What you do for God will last.” I remember hearing that all my life. I have very faith-filled grandparents, who are the exact models for who I am today. My grandfather, even at the golden age of 89, still has my father drive him to Sunday school so that He might teach, lead, and care for people. When God created each of us, He blessed us with unique gifts and talents. He blessed me with family, who have taught me great faith. He blessed you with talents, skills, or other inherited abilities.

TREASURE

When I was a little girl, my grandfather would ask me, “Do you live to eat or eat to live?” At that time, I would say, “I live to eat!” Without hesitation! As an adult, I would like to say that has changed; however, if you look at my bank account (my treasure), it will show I value food. And that’s necessary to live, but it is a matter of priorities and perspective. Am I eating to live, or is it consuming my life, time and treasure?

We sometimes hoard our time, talents and treasure for ourselves. We only share them when they benefit us financially. Having money, working, and the ability to make wealth aren’t problems. It is when those things become idols in our lives that they become sin, not serving God or helping us become all He is calling us to be. When our time is all spent on ourselves, with no thought of God’s plan or how we should relate to others, it is wasted and without purpose.

Make it Personal: What is valuable to you? Time: Look at your time. Where are the first fruits of your time spent? Treasure: Where does your money go? It is prioritized to build the kingdom of God...or to “feather your nest” and feed your need for entertainment? Talent: What areas in your life have become idols that you need to surrender? Will you allow God to use that talent to build His kingdom?

Pray: Father, I thank You for allowing me to be generous with the things You have given me. I thank You for my time, talents, and treasure, all of which I have because You have blessed me with them. Lord, give me margin in my schedule. Help me to be wise in all the areas of my life. I desire to bring You glory and to please You. However, the busyness of life gets in my way. So, God, show me the things that are fruitful and will bring You glory. I love You, Lord. I want to be more like You.

Weekly Memory Verse: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16, ESV)


Read: John 2:13-17; Luke 12:34; Matthew 6:19; Genesis 2:15
Friday

Pleasing God

Carey Madding

Today’s Scripture: “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16, ESV)

Theme: Sharing is a sacrificial response that pleases God.

NOBODY LIKES “NO”

When we deny ourselves what we want, it feels like a hurt. Even when it’s actually good for us (say, to avoid the sweets or put the money in savings), it feels like a punishment. Our flesh encourages us to coddle and pamper ourselves. Our earthly mindset convinces us that spending will make us happier, prettier, cooler, or more loved. Any little self-discipline is a hard-won battle—even for our own good, like a better financial situation or physical health!

IT ALL COMES OUT OF THE SAME POCKET

Whether on a tiny scale or in a “dig deep” way, when you share with someone else, you are foregoing something. You cannot spend your money on both yourself and others. The very same money that you are using to buy food for those who need assistance could just as easily go into a savings account for your next trip. If you’re already close to the breakeven line, sharing with others means you certainly will do without extras—and may actually mean you will lack some things.

GOD IS MY PROVISION

Yet, I am reminded that God will meet all my needs (Philippians 4:19) and richly provide everything for my enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17). My job is to live in an attitude not of “want” but in thankfulness of His grace and provision. I am to be actively creating margin in my life and budget so that I am able, willing, and even cheerful about sharing opportunities. My life purpose is to seek Him and His will, even if it involves sacrifice. In fact, Matthew 6:33 (NIV) advises, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

WHAT PLEASES HIM

In His Word, we are told over and over that what pleases God is caring for others: not church attendance and not talking big religious talk. What God desires is that we sacrifice out of our abundance to care for His children. Our decision to return to Him a portion of all He has provided reveals that we trust Him. Yet when we go further and sacrifice, so that His children are fed, clothed, and rescued by the Good News of Jesus, we are most like Jesus in His sacrifice. And that pleases God.

Make it Personal: Take time to read the passages below. Where have you been acting religious, but missing the mark? How can you apply James’ example of true religion? What is the type of fast that God desires in Isaiah? And if you did these things, what would be the result? If you need your light to shine forth, the chains to be loosened, the walls to be rebuilt, start sacrificing as God commands.

Pray: Dear Father, I want so many things for myself. Will You give me a desire and thirst to want the things You want? Will You help me worship You as You desire to be worshipped: not with programs or show, not with words and attendance, but by caring and sharing? I long to want Your desires and plans for my life, time, and resources before I think of my own. Help me to see with Your eyes and have Your heart for the hurting. Send Your Spirit to teach and convict me, God. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Weekly Memory Verse: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16, ESV)


Read: Isaiah 58:3-12; Luke 4:18-19; James 1:27; Luke 6:34-35

 

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