Power Abuse

45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

21:1 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Luke 20:45-21:4 (NIV)

In the late 19th century, Lord John Acton shared in a letter to an Anglican bishop a remark which has been quoted many times since he wrote it. Lord Acton wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” How many times throughout history have we seen the truth of Lord Acton’s words? Power can easily change an individual’s behavior. The person can become destructive to others and, at times, to themselves. A person who obtains power and notoriety must be diligent about not adopting destructive behaviors. Having someone who will keep the individual accountable for their change in behavior is beneficial. 

Jesus raises this type of issue with his disciples. They are standing in the temple courts. Jesus warns his disciples to not adopt the behaviors of the teachers of the law. As they have gained power and status because of their position, they have been corrupted. No longer are they servants of the people but now they demand the best of everything. They use their power in destructive ways. In the midst of Jesus’s teaching, a poor widow approaches the collection box in the temple. She places all she has in the box as her donation to God’s work. Jesus points her out to the disciples as a contrasting illustration. Instead of holding back for her own desires, and probably needs, she gives all. She did not demand the best but gave the most.

We can unintentionally adopt the behaviors of the teachers of the law. When we have been given the power to obtain more, we easily can use that power at the expense of others. Being consumed by the urge to obtain more and/or better, it can be easy to lose sight of how our behaviors impact others. Easily we forget our duty to serve others and ensure they have all which they need. We can overlook the poor widow who gives all. Using what we have been entrusted with by the Lord, we should not only take care of our needs but give so other people can receive what sustains them.

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