As he taught them, he said, “Watch out for the teachers of the Law, who like to walk around in their long robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplace, who choose the reserved seats in the synagogues and the best places at feasts. They take advantage of widows and rob them of their homes, and then make a show of saying long prayers. Their punishment will be all the worse!”
The Widow’s Offering
As Jesus sat near the Temple treasury, he watched the people as they dropped in their money. Many rich men dropped in a lot of money; then a poor widow came along and dropped in two little copper coins, worth about a penny. He called his disciples together and said to them, “I tell you that this poor widow put more in the offering box than all the others. For the others put in what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, put in all she had—she gave all she had to live on.”
Social Influencers are not a new phenomenon. Even Jesus outed ‘Influencers’ in his time, even the ‘teachers of the Law’. There are people who have a positive influence in our community, and people whose influence causes distress, hurt, and even long-lasting grief. Passive-aggressive, power-over, manipulative and denigrating people, still exist today within our churches, unfortunately. They may seek to lead worship, singing or prayers, or seek power through election to leadership, Church Council or as an Elder. They create a small band of supporters, being able to meet a person’s emotional need, to develop loyalty and ‘friendship’. This is called grooming. Then the ‘Influencer’ systematically takes advantage of those positions and relationships, to influence others to follow their lead through innuendo and persuasive means. Their subtle denigration and progressive demeaning of others through sly comments, non-inclusivity, re-storying truth to create a negative reality, or using another’s way of being, disability or incapacity, as a ‘funny story’, a joke to cajole others to laugh with the Influencer at the victim’s expense. In today’s world, this is named as bullying, intimidation, and harassment. At worst, it becomes mental, physical or sexual abuse. It is a destructive pattern that is often hard to identify before it exacerbates such devasting consequences on the victim (ill health, grief, damaged self-esteem, anxiety or victimization).
Jesus identifies the negative ‘Influencers’. Nowhere in our biblical teachings is there support for such behaviour. This is not the Way of Jesus, nor loving your neighbour.
Jesus calls us to follow God’s Way to bring influence through completely different ways of being and living. We, who have a wealth of good relationships need to give all of ourselves like the widow, to create the treasury of God’s just and peace-filled love.
Let us look to our Churches, our practices and our lack of naming these behaviours, our fear of confronting the bully because they are ‘Church people’, or have power and influence; or we participate with the ‘Influencer’ and their subtle, destructive behavior.
As we celebrate All Saints Day (All Hallows/Halloween), and grieve with many on All Souls Day, we recall with joy those who have been shining lights of Christianity who have given all that they had in faith filled lives, thus, our sorrowing is a mingling of bittersweet.
God of gracious gifts,
You grace humans with many wonderful skills,
Including intelligence, intuition, and insight.
These have offered such wonderful influence for
healing, support, understanding, and community building.
Yet, these have also been used for influencing
hurt, shame, undermining and corrupt practices.
In the darkness of humiliation and intimidation,
the deep pain is often carried as if it is the victims due.
We grieve with the sorrowing who bear such pain.
A silence is kept
We are sorry, God of Grace
for misusing these loving strengths
for unlovely strategies.
We are sorry, God of Truth
when we see these negative actions
and do not use our skills to identify the truth.
We are sorry, God of Light
when, integrity is shadowed by injustice
And we do not call it out for fear of reprisal on ourselves.
God of gracious gifts,
May we be as the widow
And offer all that we have
to influence our Churches with loving justice and kindly peace.
May it be so.
© Rev Anne Hewitt 03/11/2021
This reflection & prayer may be shared as long as the original writer is credited.