Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

April 16th, 2008 • Category: Gospel of Luke
by Julie Benson

Today’s scripture: Luke 2:21-39 (ESV-text and audio) (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts — Julie Benson and Brent Walsh:

The focus of this passage rests on Simeon and Anna, but I’d like to take you on a slightly different trail today…

When I was under my parents’ roof, I relied on my powers of persuasion to get money from my folks. In college, I juggled a part-time job with my 22-credit-hour semester just to put gas in my car and stock my shelf with groceries. With my first full-time job, I entered into the dimension of balancing bills with an overstretched budget. When my job was eliminated a few years later, my steady bill-paying progress dropped off a cliff. Living arrangements changed. Bills piled up. Debt collectors called incessantly. My finances hung over my head like a black cloud.

I think many of us live paycheck to paycheck, sometimes struggling just to make it by. Finances often consume our thoughts and spur arguments and drain us of emotional energy. By this same token, it’s true that most of us have not and probably will never experience abject poverty.

Have you ever considered the financial struggles of Jesus’ parents? Leviticus 12:6-8 outlines the rules for a woman who has just given birth to a child. The Law states that a woman must offer a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or dove for a sin offering. But the Law provides a second option for the woman who could not afford such an offering. She could substitute with two doves or two pigeons, which must have been significantly less expensive.

Our passage indicates that Mary came to the temple with a pair of doves or two pigeons. It’s obvious that Mary and Joseph struggled to make ends meet, just like we do today. If God had wanted to, Jesus could easily have been born into a family who could have afforded a more elegant sacrifice. He could have been born into wealth and privilege. He might have even been made a prince or nobleman. But that was not God’s plan. Jesus was born into a household where money was not easy to come by. Joseph and Mary had to live paycheck to paycheck, finding ways to stretch their money, just like you and me.

Our Lord understands our financial burdens much better than we might think! The same Jesus we pray to about that unpaid utility bill has had to stretch a dollar (or a denarius) just like we have! Don’t let the supremacy of Jesus Christ keep you from remembering His own meager upbringing. Let Him sit with you at the kitchen table while you try to figure out who gets paid this week!

Prayer for the day: Lord, Help me to remember that you are well aware of my financial struggles, and that you can relate to my every need.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

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