The occasional thoughts of an ordinary man serving an extraordinary God. Come with me as we learn, teach, and laugh along the way.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
In the Future: Luke 21
Luke 21 opens with what is probably the most famous of all Jesus’ teaching on giving. This is the story of the Widow’s Mite, where a widow gives her small amount at the Temple. She is contrasted with the religiously self-important, who give greater gross amounts, but do it for the publicity. Additionally, she has put a larger percentage of her resources—without divine support, she will be in great need. The important folks? These gave from what they did not need.
After observing the giving at the Temple, Jesus goes on to speak of the end of time. His return will come after a great deal of chaos and destruction. One challenge in using this chapter to foretell a specific date—or even era—is that two major events are intermingled here. The return of Christ and the end of the ages is the major one, but secondarily included is the destruction of Jerusalem, likely at the hands of the Romans. (Or, perhaps, the destruction of Jerusalem at the end of time. You get the challenge.)
As always, the main issue in “end of the age” timing is the imminence of the return of Christ. It’s clear enough that it could be almost any time. Be obedient. Be ready.
Rather than putting a few verses under focus today, let us consider the context of this entire chapter. Many times we have heard sermons about giving based on the Widow’s Mite. I will acknowledge the virtue of giving with regard only for the glory of God. Those who give without regard to the opinions of others or their own comfort are more often blessed than those who focus on logic in giving.
Looking at the context, have you ever considered how the whole section is connected? Jesus begins to teach about the impending doom and transition to eternity after seeing the Widow and her giving. This tells us that, whether we like it or not, the events observed and the teaching given are related. Jesus did not see the Widow and say “Well, changing the subject…”
If these are connected, then what is the connection? The connection is this: why hold on to material wealth in light of eternity? And why give to build buildings, even the Temple, what will be destroyed? In Practice:
Where is the practical look of this going? You might think it’s heading to “mail a check to your church!” Or even more likely, “Mail a check to your pastor!” (Or pastor-blogger! Address is available…)
That’s not the direction I want to head. If you are a Christian, you have a responsibility to honor God and support the work of the Kingdom through the church you are a part of. That’s not what is in view here—Jewish Law commanded the giving to support daily existence of synagogues and teachers. While that command is subsumed under grace, we still bear that responsibility for the church today. The giving in view was the extra giving, the giving for something greater and extra.
Instead, I would challenge us all to consider this: in light of eternity, what good is any of our spending? This includes how your local church spends its money. Are we spending it on matters that carry through? On growing fruit? On honoring God?
Or is it all going to stuff that will go away? That big, beautiful church building? Guess what? It’s doomed. Fancy car for your pastor? Destroyed. Copies of the Word of God for the multitudes? That carries forward, for the Word of the Lord endures forever. Hungry fed? That’s worth it.
Are there needs for administrative or helpful tools like buildings or employees…sure. But keep it perspective. If the Widow is going to give her Mite, then she shouldn’t be doing it just to build a building that’s destined for destruction. Let it go to something of value.
Luke 21:24 speaks of “the time of the Gentiles.” When are those? Some would suggest that this was the Roman domination until the modern nation of Israel. Others suggest that the “time of the Gentiles” continues even now, as Jerusalem continues to be ruled not by the Jewish people but in all sorts of chaos.
The reality? We don’t know for certain, but I would suggest that the “time of the Gentiles” continues in Jerusalem to this day. I’m not the perfect interpreter of prophecy, but I think there remains a future restoration of Jerusalem. In the long run, there will be a time when Jerusalem will not have to consider the opinions of Gentiles. But that is not yet.
Could it be soon? It could. Which is why the ultimate eschatological plan is always the same: be ready. The Lord is coming soon.