“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; cf. Luke 1:51–53). Luke contrasts the proud and humble, a contrast seen in the proud scribes and the humble widow of Luke 20:45–21:4. The humble receive grace. But what does it mean to be humble? What does it look like? Trust. We can see four characteristics of what this trust looks like in this passage.
First, instead of loving recognition, trust recognizes its dependence (Luke 20:45–46). The scribes loved recognition as they would like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts (Luke 20:46). They were looking to and loved to be recognized by others. In contrast the poor widow recognized her own dependence. Her blessing was that she did not hide her need behind the respect of others. Throughout Luke, the humble and dependent are lifted up by God (1:52; 4:18; 14:21; 18:13, 38). This poor widow is recognized and acknowledged by Jesus (20:4) because she recognized her dependence.
Second, instead of consuming others, trust gives to others (Luke 20:47). Ironically, the proud devour widows’ houses (20:47) while the poor widow gave all she had to live on (21:4). In marketing people are called consumers, but it is more blessed to give than to receive (or consume!). The humble have freedom to give because they trust the Source of all gifts.
Third, instead of being pretentious, trust is authentic. The proud for a pretense make long prayers; their reality is less than their appearance. The poor widow has simply put in all that she had to live on; the reality of the humble is greater than its appearance. Do we appear more than we are? The humble have no qualms about authenticity, and their reality exceeds their appearance.
Finally, instead of being condemned, trust will be rewarded. The scribes may be recognized by people, but they will receive the greater condemnation (20:47). However, the generosity of the poor widow will be rewarded. Jesus promises, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (6:20). Similarly, as we trust in the Lord, we may be confident of our reward.
So what? What marks your life? Even as we live with such abundance, may our lives be marked by humble trust.