PRINCIPLES AND DEFINITIONS OF INTERPRETATION
Let it be known here that this article is not a personal attack against John MacArthur, nor is it a defense for Charismatics/Charismania. It is a critic of MacArthur’s teaching on the Widow who gave two mites at his “Strange Fire Conference” (Trying the Spirits) and his previous teachings “Abusing The Poor” (youtube 2009).
Before we begin it is imperative that I lay before you a few definitions along with seven Hermeneutical principles essential interpretation as in many of MacArthur’s quotes below are said by him to be a face value interpretation.
SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF HERMENEUTIC’S
1. Accept the meaning of Scripture in its most normal, natural, customary sense.
a. The text meant something at the time it was written, our job is to get to that normal, natural meaning, i.e. what did the words mean at the time they were written?
2. Take Scripture in context.
a. What precedes and follows is the best clue to what a particular verse or word or paragraph means.
b. Consider the impact of the context.
3. Compare Scripture with Scripture.
a. The compounding of the individual passages of Scripture dealing with the same subject highlights our understanding on any particular subject or text.
4. Refute all Scriptural contradictions.
a. Until all apparent contradictions are dispelled, truth has not been discovered.
b. If there is a contradiction it is on the part of the interpreter, not on the text. The Word of God has no contradictions.
5. Watch for Near/Far prophetic applications in Scripture.
a. Luke 21 is an example with the destruction of the temple. First in 70 A.D. and then when Christ comes again it will be on a much broader scale.
6. Never Assume.
a. Assumptions is the fault line of interpretation! Assumption leads to insertion. Genetics can be described as a segment of DNA that is inserted into a gene sequence, the result is cloning. A lack of understanding of any biblical text leads one to assume, which in turn channels them to insert one’s own opinion. Injecting man’s opinion into the word of God only produces a mutated result.
7. Never Spiritualize or Allegorize Scripture.
a. Spiritualizing Scripture is simply reading into the text and then adding to it something that otherwise is not there.
b. Allegorizing Scripture is giving a symbolic representation of the text. It’s painting a picture, turning the text into a storyline, generalizing or giving a broad view by turning the text into a narrative account instead of a face value understanding.
DEFINITION OF EXPOSITORY PREACHING:
“Expository preaching involves the exposition, or comprehensive explanation, of the Scripture; that is, expository preaching presents the meaning and intent of a biblical text, providing commentary and examples to make the passage clear and understandable. The word exposition is related to the word expose – the expository preacher’s goal is simply to expose the meaning of the Bible, verse by verse…..While exposition is not the only valid mode of preaching, it is the best for teaching the plain sense of the Bible. Expositors usually approach Scripture with these assumptions.”
DEFINITION of EXEGESIS:
Scholarly interpretation of religious texts, using linguistic, historical, and other methods. In Judaism and Christianity, it has been used extensively in the study of the Bible. Textual criticism tries to establish the accuracy of biblical texts. Philological criticism deals with grammar, vocabulary, and style in pursuit of faithful translation. Literary criticism classifies texts according to style and attempts to establish authorship, date, and audience. Tradition criticism seeks the sources of biblical materials and traces their development. Redaction criticism examines the way pieces of the tradition have been assembled into a literary composition by editors. Form criticism studies the way narratives are shaped by the cultures that produce them. Historical criticism looks at a text’s historical context.
In John MacArthur’s sermon “Abusing the Poor”, I agree with much of what John MacArthur presents in this sermon. However, most of the things I agree with him on are simply other’s erroneous teachings on the text. He points out some commentators interpretations of the widow’s mite text that I have heard over the years and agree that they are in fact not what the text intended i.e. “give all you have and take a vow of poverty,” “give till it hurts,” “it’s all about sacrificial giving,” “it’s all about the money and the amount etc.” although I think he goes overboard on his assumptions of other commentators being wrong and of course the implication that he has it right, He repeatedly points out that that the face value of the text on the widow doesn’t say anything about monetary amounts given, or with what intent it is given etc., he says “it doesn’t say any of those things“….and I agree
I also agree with him on the corruption of the religious system of the temple, the text before the widow’s mention makes that clear.
“Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widow’s houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
So I do agree with some of what he says concerning some of the scriptures he uses.
The specific things that I do not agree with John MacArthur on is his “expository” preaching…..because it is not what he is doing. He sets the standard for interpretation of the scriptures and he is correct in what he says to this point. But then he states “I think Jesus….” was displeased,” “I think Jesus was angry,” “….the widow was trying to buy her way into the kingdom” and many, many more “I thinks” and in his assumptions of what the text says he grossly violates the standards he sets.
He pretty much dogs the widow throughout the sermon (although there are snippets where he speaks of her supposedly in kindness) and you are left with literally, according to his teaching, viewing her as a deceived victim of a false religious system, who follows blindly to buy her salvation.
Also, one has to literally take a look at Mark 12:43 “And he called unto him His disciples, and saith unto them” and verse 44 “For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in ALL THAT SHE HAD, EVEN ALL HER LIVING.” Anytime in the scriptures that Jesus called His disciples to Him it was to teach, instruct, and give them understanding. If according to John MacArthur, this text is all about a false religious system; then why would Jesus even mention the widow? It’s clear in the verses above the widow’s text that Jesus proclaims to all that the scribes and Pharisees devour widows houses and are corrupt. He makes this point more than once. And also if Jesus was just looking at face value “how” the people cast into the treasury, how would he have known that the widow had given ALL her living? Of course the answer is He is God and knows all, but He makes it a point of telling His disciples she gave all her living. Why?
Quotes by John MacArthur (Strange Fire Conference) “Testing The Spirits” session: at the end of the session around the 8:19 minute mark.
“And when Jesus saw the widow put in her last mite into the temple offering…..He said this temple is going to come down, not one stone will be left on another. I don’t know what you have been taught about that story about the widow giving her last two cents. That was NOT an example of Christian giving. God doesn’t expect you to give your last two cents and go home and die. That’s what happens to a widow who is suckered by a religion of works. She was trying to buy, with her last two cents, her way into the kingdom; because that’s what she’d been taught. And Jesus said any system that sucks people down to the place where they have nothing left, in a false hope is coming down and it did.”…
To really understand what JM is teaching about this passage youtube has one of his sermons on it “Abusing The Poor” ….. apparently he has been teaching this for some time, the videos were uploaded in 2009
· Video 1 6:19 mark
“Universally commentators tell us, that our Lord is giving us a little glimpse of true worship, in the middle of the false worship that dominates the temple. They tell us that it’s a beautiful little story in the midst of ugliness. A little light in the midst of darkness. An illustration of giving till it hurts. Contrasted with the selfishness of the spiritual leaders. This is the traditional, the universal explanation of this passage. In fact scholars agree that this is a lesson on giving but interestingly enough they can’t agree on what the lesson is. And if you were to go through say 25 or 30 or 50 or 100 commentators on this passage; they would suggest many lessons. They don’t all agree.”
John goes on to point out several of the “options” the many commentators give for this text. All centered around monetary giving, amounts etc.
· Video 1 mark 9:41
“In fact ALL(speaking of all the other commentators he previously mentions) of those interpretations are imposed on the text; AND YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT IMPOSING THINGS ON THE BIBLE TEXT, NOT GOOD. You say, why do you say they are imposed? Because Jesus NEVER made any of those points. Jesus never said what’s left behind, what percentage, what attitude or do the same and give everything , He didn’t….Jesus never makes any of those points. He does not say the rich gave relatively too little, they had too much left over. He doesn’t say the rich gave to little of a percent . He doesn’t say the widow gave the right amount. He doesn’t say the rich had a bad attitude and the widow had a good attitude or a good spirit, He doesn’t say that. In fact He doesn’t say anything about their giving”;NOTE: start of video 2 …”except that she gave more than everybody.”
As you go through this sermon you can see that John doesn’t adhere to the set standards of not imposing things on biblical text.
· video 2 the beginning
“except that she gave more than everybody. He doesn’t say why or with what attitude or whether she should have or shouldn’t have or they should have or shouldn’t have. Her outward action is all that you see. It is no more or less good, bad, indifferent, humble, proud, selfish, unselfish than anybody else’s act. There is no judgment made on her act as to it’s true character. There’s nothing said about her attitude or spirit. She could be acting out of devotion, she could be acting out of love. She could be acting out of guilt, she could be acting out of fear. We don’t know because Jesus doesn’t say anything; He doesn’t say anything about the rich, He doesn’t say anything about the widow, doesn’t draw any conclusions. Doesn’t develop any principles, doesn’t command anything, doesn’t define anything. Why? Because none of that matters. The only thing that I can conclude is, if Jesus wanted to say any of that here He could have said it. If He wanted to say I need to give like the widow, she had a good attitude and she gave the maximum percentage and what she had left behind was little, this is the kind of sacrificial giving we’re after, He doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say anything. The story then is not designed to teach any of those things.”
· video 2 2:19 mark
“There’s only one comment that Jesus makes; She gave, with her two copper coins, relatively a great deal more than all the others; because all the others gave out of their surplus, which means they had some left, she gave out of her poverty all she had to live on. That’s all there is. No comment that the Lord appreciated her, no comment that the Lord loved her, commended her, no comment that she was now in the kingdom of God.”
…..Jesus didn’t say “she gave relatively a great deal more that all the others” He said “she gave more than ALL of them”
· Video 3mark5:08 quoting from Luke 21
“And He looked up, now stop there, that assumes that He was what?… Looking down, good, that’s lesson one in exegesis. If you looked up, you’ve had to been looking down. That’s really important, really, really important. Mark in a parallel passage Mark 12:41 says He was sitting down. Now you need to understand what’s going on here; in verses 46-47 at the end of the chapter you have that brief, brief statement of beware of the scribes speech; but the full speech is in Matt. 23.
· Video 3 mark 8:34
John MacArthur goes onto say “This was the sad final message. It’s conclusion is devastating, not only devastating to the leaders, devastating to the nation but devastating to Jesus. This is where all His efforts end”…..
· Video 3 at mark 9:00
….”so it’s not just the physical weariness it’s the agonizing, sad reality.”…mark 10:11 “and so Mark says He was sitting and His eyes must have been looking down, as He contemplates the damning religion of Judaism and the fact that the temple where He sat; which He had earlier cleansed was so corrupt, it’s religion so ungodly …..”
Yes it does say in Luke 21 that Jesus looked up; however when John goes to Mark 12:41 he only focuses on half the verse about Jesus sitting. If you look at the rest of the verse it says He sat opposite the treasury, AND OBSERVED HOW the people cast money into the treasury…throughout the sermon John steers clear of this part of the verse and leads one to believe that it was more a matter of Jesus being tired as to why He sat down. But if you look at the text and the translation of the words “observed” and “how,” it becomes clear that it was with intent that He did this. Observed = “consider, to be a spectator, to view attentively, discern, to ascertain, find out by seeing, and also, understand. ” The word how= “by what means, after what manner, in what way.” So did Jesus sit down across from the treasury because He was tired? or to watch how the people put money into the treasury? There is a reason that John doesn’t really dwell on this section of the verse.
· Video 2 mark 7:04
“In fact I think what she did displeased Him immensely. I think it was more than displeased, I think it angered Him. I think what she did angered Jesus. Let me put it this way; how would you feel, you’re a person who loves the Lord, you’re a person who loves you’re brother, cares about people and cares about their needs. How would you feel if you saw a destitute widow, who only had two coins left to buy her food for her next meal, give those two coins to a religious system? How would you feel? You would say something is wrong with that system. When that system takes the last two coins out of a widows hand. That’s what you would say, and you would be right to say that. Giving your last two coins to a false religious system. How would you feel if you saw a destitute impoverished person, give to her religion her last hope for life to go home perhaps and die? You’d be sick, you’d feel terrible, you would be repulsed . Any religion that is built on the back of the poor is a false religion. What a sad misguided, woeful, poor, victimized lady. It’s sad, tragic, painful and I think that’s exactly how Jesus saw it. He saw that corrupt system taking the last two pennies out of a widows pocket,”
First he says that Jesus was displeased and angry with what she did, then he shifts it to the false religious system, but he has already planted the idea that Jesus was angry with the actions of the widow. Secondly, he starts to lead the congregation to the idea that she will “perhaps go home and die” and poses it as a question, he later makes this a fact in video 5 mark :10 seconds in;
“She’s going to go home and die, You get the picture? Jesus isn’t commending her, she’s the victim“. video 5 mark :48 “Jesus is certainly not saying, she gave her last cents and that’s what you should do! Of course not, He doesn’t want you to give up everything and go home and die.”
He has already made it a fact that the widow giving her two coins is all about a false religious system, rather than the clear understanding that Jesus sat opposite the treasury to observe “how the people gave” NOT how they gave to a false religious system.
· Video 3 mark 9:51
“God doesn’t want a widow to give up her last two cents. You couldn’t find that in the Bible any place. That’s the last thing God would want a widow to do.”
I find it interesting that John makes this statement right after he plants the idea that the widow “perhaps will go home a die.” The only place in scripture where a widow is going to go home and die is in 1 Kings 17:9-12
“Arise, get thee to Zarephath which belongs to Zidon, and dwell there; behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering sticks and he called to her and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse; and behold I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”
Even though the widow was commanded by God here to give ALL, John fails to mention that part of the text but rather chooses to transpose the “go home and die” into the widow’s mite text. WOW!! and here’s the kicker 1 Kings 17:13-16;
“And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for they son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD endeth rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.”….She gave ALL and God sustained her and her son!!
video 2 and at the very end of video 1 He is VERY clear and distinct in taking the verse at face value and not reading into the text or assuming what it is saying and then at the 7:10 minute mark he says…..”I think” God was displeased, angered; hummm, so why is he interjecting his own assumptions’ when he just clearly criticized commentators etc. for doing the same????
· Video 3, 4:18 mark
… “this is not an illustration of heartfelt sacrificial giving” ….He know this how? Doesn’t say so in the text. Although I do agree that it is not about “giving” or “money” still he is interjecting even more error into the text.
Video 3, 4:25 mark, John uses the illustration of the servant with the one talent as an example of money management, not mentioning that this servant was cast into outer darkness…. Matt. 25:24-30. Nor does he mention it wasn’t the servants money to begin with, it was the masters money. Nor does he use correct hermeneutics by using this reference of the servant, as the content of the text on the “talents and the servants” has nothing to do with “giving.”
· video 4, 8:11 mark
“Nothing is said about her attitude. Nothing is said about her spirit. Nothing is said about whether she did it in desperation or devotion, whether she did it in legalism or love; doesn’t say anything about that. The Lord doesn’t commend her, doesn’t make her an example. Doesn’t validate what she did. Doesn’t say it was a worthy spiritual act or that it greatly pleased Him. All He said was, this religious system is preying on widows, this cost her more than everyone else……”….the more desperate they became the more they needed to buy God’s blessing.”
· Video 4 mark
“And He sees the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. Rich is polusios in the Greek. It simply means, they had a full supply, those with enough. Not mega rich, very rich, super rich, just, they had enough. Those who could put some in and have some left. The non-poor, people who could make offerings and still have enough to live. In fact Mark 12:41 says they were putting in large amounts, polus, much, they were putting in much. They were putting in a substantial amount then they still had plenty left over.”
Notice how he downplays the interpretation of “rich” at the beginning of his statement as they were “the non-poor” although at the end of the statement he seems to correct this with “they were putting in a substantial amount.” He has already planted the thought that these were not actually “rich.” Strongs definition of rich in this text is “wealthy, abounding in material resources, abundantly supplied” He appears to try and level the playing field between the “rich” and the “poor widow.” Although he doesn’t use the phrase “middle class” he pretty much indicates that the “rich” were really that. Why? So that when he gets to the point where he ties all of this into present day Charismania, many will be able to relate to it.
· Video 5:17 second mark
“Jesus isn’t commending her, she’s the victim. He’s not proud of her. He’s not making her an example of sacrificial giving. This is an absurdity. :28 mark “He is observing the corruption of the system that is going to be destroyed, under the leadership of these corrupt condemned leaders.”
Again, what Jesus was OBSERVING? It’s very clear that he was watching the HOW the PEOPLE gave, not the system. See the twist? Also Jesus had already visited the temple prior to this “observation” that John speaks of in (Matt. 21:12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold dove, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.). So it’s pretty clear that Jesus already knew the system was corrupt.
· Video 3 mark 1:30
“I THINK, Jesus was not happy, I THINK Jesus was angry and that’s why He says in verse 6, at the things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.”
Again he is assuming and overlaying the content and subjects that don’t pertain to one another in the flow of the context, verse 6 is in reference to the disciples speaking of the temple, NOT anything to do with the widow’s mite.
· Video 5 mark 2:01
“Isn’t this obvious? If you saw a widow give her last two cents to some religious organization, in the hope that she could purchase salvation, or purchase blessing, or buy healing, or buy prosperity, you wouldn’t commend her, you’d want to stop her and you would want to shut down that religious system that preys on the desperate. This act did not please our Lord.”- Again he ASSUMES the intent of the widow.
· mark 5:15 video 5
“The largest segment of givers to the Charismatic prosperity gospel preachers, are single women, desperate for healing, desperate for money, sometimes they are promised money, health and the new one, is sometimes they are promised a spouse, a man. That’s right, if they send in their money.”
Video 5 mark 7:48 John ties in the destruction of the temple. Again overlaying one topic with another out on context.
Now I have included this quote ” In fact ALL of those interpretations are imposed on the text; AND YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT IMPOSING THINGS ON THE BIBLE TEXT, NOT GOOD. ” And I do agree with it; there are many statements throughout the Strange Fire session that speak on the standards of scriptures, including John MacArthur himself; but I have to wonder at this point if they apply the same standard to themselves? At this point I have to say they don’t. If John MacArthur has been teaching on the story of the widow and turning it into a Charismania signs and wonders tragedy and the sole reason that Jesus said the temple would be destroyed and that the widow after giving all was going home to die…..I have to wonder if any of these men who follow MacArthur have approached him on this error or do they also believe this?
Do they give him a pass because, after all, he does say and preach some true things? Does that sound familiar? This is the same thing I came out of, truth mixed with error. The leaders underlines giving a pass and explaining away (i.e. looking the other way) error. The most astounding thing to me, is there is absolutely no need to twist this scripture to prove that the modern day Charismatic church is steeped in error. As I stated earlier, there are many, many scriptures that prove that, at face value and in context. So the next question is why in the world would John MacArthur take this scripture, turn it into something that’s not face value, it is NOT? I don’t have the answer to that; but I do know that if I follow MacArthur’s own “standard” of understanding these passages of scripture, he is found to be teaching error.
You have to wonder at some point, which Christ or Jesus John MacArthur is preaching and teaching in this text? Where does one draw the line of taking away or adding to the Word of God and in particular, when it comes to Christ’s attributes and character? Even John MacArthur himself believes this, yet he himself has changed, altered, and twisted scripture and its content; thereby altering and changing Christ’s character and attributes when it comes to the rich, poor and the widows. This is certainly a man who should know better. He does, he sets the correct understanding of examining scriptures, that is obvious, even in the Strange Fire sessions and the other speakers were clear on the standards; yet they don’t follow them, themselves.
· video 1 quote at the 4:53 mark
“Luke only gives us a couple of verses regarding our Lord’s warning concerning the Scribes and the Pharisees. Matthew gives us the full account of His message on the dangers of these false religious leaders. It’s chapter 23 verses 1-39. He has pronounced judgment on the leaders and therefore judgment on the nation for following those leaders and rejecting Him.” In Matthew 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”
This is a misuse and twisting of scripture on more than one level. The only thing that I can think of for this, is he is obviously using, or rather misusing, this section of scripture for his own agenda. Which is really not necessary, since there are more than enough scriptures, in context, that show the false teachings of the prosperity gospel. Ironically the title of the session is “Testing the spirits.”
Jesus did not respond to the widow’s act with “this temple is going to come down, not one stone will be left on another” Jesus didn’t say “THEREFORE” after He spoke of the widow giving more than all. Jesus spoke this to His disciples after they:” saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down”
This has nothing to do with the widow! This is the beginning of chapter 13 where Jesus is about to go into His Olivet discourse on the end times.
I would like to add that although John MacArthur says many things I agree with concerning other erroneous teachings on these scriptures, I find that he is only using that to deflect from his own erroneous teachings and beliefs.
In video 2 I would beg to differ with John on the points of drawing any conclusions, principles and that it doesn’t define anything, in that when Jesus called His disciples and said to them “Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow has cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury. For all they cast in of their abundance, but she of her want did cast in all the she had, even all her living.” The disciples had a clear understanding of what Jesus was saying and so can we, based on what the rest of the scriptures teaches us about the rich, the poor and the widows. This is the end of the story, you don’t read where the disciples said anything to Him or asked for an explanation.
Concluding this section, if you listen to John MacArthur’s messages on the widow with two mites you will hear him say, “It doesn’t say this or that,” “the commentators got it all wrong,” etc. You will also hear him say, “The widow was deceived, buying her way into the kingdom, she was a victim of a corrupt religious system, Jesus was angry with her giving, the religious system will be destroyed as a result, Jesus was tired, that’s why he sat down, etc, etc. John may not speak in tongues, but he does speak with a forked one as none of his statements or opinions are contained in the text either.
A LOOK AT THE WIDOW
The Gospel of Mark specifies that two mites (Greek lepta) are together worth a quadrans, the smallest Roman coin. A lepton was the smallest and least valuable coin in circulation in Palestine, worth about six minutes of an average daily wage, this was next to nothing in value.1 Today, if we used our current pay scale system it would amount to $1.70 at our current minimum wage. How long do you think $1.70 will sustain someone today? At best, you could buy a donut, maybe a loaf of bread. This may not be that important, however, the two mites the widow gave of her living was not near enough to sustain her yet out of her poverty she gave it and Jesus noted her giving as more than those who gave out of there surplus. The point is, contrary to what John MacArthur said, the widow could have kept her two mites and still went home and died anyway.
Then there is the treasury, a place of deposit for the public treasure. Among the Jews this was the sacred treasury kept in one of the courts of the temple. According to the Talmudists, the treasury was in the court of the women where stood thirteen chests, called from their shape “trumpets,” into which the Jews cast their offerings. It was considered the sacred treasury in which not only treasure but also public records were stored, and the property of widows and orphans was deposited.
This widow was poor, and the God of Israel had such affection for the poor He directly identified with them and required all others to provide for their needs and to give them justice (Psalms 12:5, 34:6; Proverbs 14:31; 19:17). The plight of the poor is one of the issues that matters most to God, and his Law made truly astounding provisions to help them, not the least of which were economic protections:2
- Gleanings and Harvests: The corners of fields and the grapes dropped by the workers were reserved for the poor (Deuteronomy 24:17; Leviticus 19:9-10). The poor were also allowed to eat from land that lay fallow or idle in the Sabbath years (Leviticus 25:1-7; Deuteronomy 15:1-11).
- Protection from Creditors: Creditors could not charge interest or keep garments (which provided warmth and doubled as one’s blanket at night), nor could they take the tools of a man’s trade as security for a loan. These provisions ensured people’s ability to earn a living and also prevented extreme hardships (Exodus 22:25-27; Deuteronomy 24:12-13).
- Right to Timely Wages: The poor worker, whether a stranger or brother, was to receive his wages on the day of his labor, all the more so if he had need of it immediately (Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14-15).
- Year of Jubilee: Once every 50 years, Jubilee provided a comprehensive program of debt cancellation, liberation from indentured servitude, and the complete restoration of each family’s ancestral property, granting the poor a fresh start (Leviticus 25:8-22).
- Kinsman Redeemer: Family members were to help each other repurchase their land if they fell into debt and lost it (Leviticus 25:23-34). Family members could also purchase freedom for one another if they were forced into slavery to meet financial needs
(Leviticus 25:47-55). Widows could also be saved from their plight by kinsman redeemers, as in the case of Boaz’s aid to Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi (Ruth 4:1-10).
It is clearly understood that the two mites the widow gave were virtually worthless. She was identified as a poor widow, (Luke 21: 2,3). Interesting is that the two words translated as “poor” in verses 2&3 are two completely different Greek words. In verse two it is penichros simply meaning “needy.” However, after she had given her two mites, Jesus addressed her as a poor widow using the Greek word ptochos which means she was now destitute, afflicted, helpless and powerless. It is used of one who is beggary and destitute of the necessities of life and subsisting on the alms from others. This Greek word also describes a person who may be poor but earns their bread by daily labor. This would fit this widow who Jesus said; “out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had,” speaking of her resources. And although she gave the least where value is concerned, Jesus made it clear she gave more and all those combined who gave out of their abundance.
When you consider the affection God has for the poor and the provisions God placed in the Law to sustain the poor, it becomes a virtual impossibility that Jesus would be angry with this widow’s giving. In fact, the language in this context, combined with the whole of Scripture reveals this widow’s giving to be that of faith. Just consider James 2:5:
“Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor (ptochos) rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him.”
No, contrary to what John MacArthur has taught, Jesus pitied, loved, and commended this widow. There is only one more issue I want to address that flies in the face of what MacArthur states above about the widow’s giving “all” before we close this article, and I quote; “Jesus is certainly not saying, she gave her last cents and that’s what you should do! Of course not, He doesn’t want you to give up everything and go home and die.” He later says, and I quote; “God doesn’t want a widow to give up her last two cents. You couldn’t find that in the Bible any place. That’s the last thing God would want a widow to do.”
As you already have read, God commanded the widow in 1 Kings 17:13-16 to provide for Elijah, all she had was a handful of flour in a bin and a little oil. But by faith, she gave all she had, prepared a cake and gave it to Elijah. Every day after that, until the drought was over, God provided both the flour and oil to sustain the widow and her son. So it can be found in the Word of God Brother John. In fact we have many examples where people gave ALL, some were commanded, for others it was conditional, while others gave all out of free will, let me show you.
Example 1 – The widow in 1 Kings 17, this widow was commanded to sustain Elijah 1 Kings 17:8.
Example 2 – The Rich Young Ruler; this was conditional; Matthew 19:16-22
“Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, ” ‘YOU SHALL NOT MURDER,’ ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,’ ‘YOU SHALL NOT STEAL,’ ‘YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS,’ ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER,’ and, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ ” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
When Jesus said, “go, sell what you have,” His meaning was “all” that you have, give to the poor and come follow me. Now, this was conditional, in that, the rich young ruler had to be willing to part with his earthly possessions to obtain treasure in heaven.
Example 3 – The beginning of the Church; this was free will giving; Acts 4:32-35
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.”
Early believers expressed the reality of their common life in Christ by practicing a community of goods. Instead of holding on to personal possessions, they looked on their property as belonging to all. They sold land and houses bringing the proceeds to the apostles for distribution. F.E. Marsh wrote a sad parallel to this section from a modern view.
F. E. Marsh’s modern parallel:
One has said, in contrasting the early Church with the Christianity of today, “Is it not a solemn thought, that if the evangelist Luke were describing modern instead of primitive Christianity, he would have to vary the phraseology of Acts 4:32-35 somewhat as follows: … “And the multitude of them that professed were of hard heart and stony soul, and every one said that all the things which he possessed were his own: and they had all things in the fashion. And with great power gave they witness to the attractions of this world, and great selfishness was upon them all. And there were many among them that lacked love, for as many as were possessors of lands bought more, and sometimes gave a small part thereof for a public good, so their names were heralded in the newspapers, and distribution of praise was made to everyone according as he desired.”3
The point is, the early Church held nothing back from the needs of others but were liberal givers, to the point of selling houses and lands.
Example 4 – The Macedonians; Free will giving; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5
Another overwhelming example of liberal giving is the Macedonians who were as the widow with the two mites “poor” (ptochos). These believers had been going through a great trial of affliction yet their joy was so overflowing that when the needs of the saints in Jerusalem was presented to them they gave in a most liberal manner. In fact, Paul said their giving when beyond their ability, they reached deep into their pockets to give what little they had in spite of their poverty. I know, it doesn’t say they gave “all,” however how does one give beyond ones ability? The passage suggest they gave beyond “all.”
Sadly, as F. E. Marsh so eloquently put it, today’s church’s consume most of their offerings, and I’m talking about the Charismatic’s as well as the Reformed, on Salary’s, buildings, Media, etc., and very little, if any, is distributed to the needy, the poor, and the widows. So essentially, all John MacArthur has done in his “Strange Fire Conference” in his “Trying the Spirits” session and in his series “Abusing the Poor” is trade one lie for another, mixing in error with truth just like the Charismatic’s do.
3. Believers Bible Commentary; e-Sword