The widow’s “MIGHT”

BREAD FOR THE JOURNEY

One stumbling block to gen erous giving even for a wor thy cause is that it hurts our pocket book. Jesus made this point clear in what he said to his disciples about a widow who offered her last penny as she worshiped at the temple. From where he was seated, Jesus observed worshipers presenting their offerings to the temple treasury.

He saw the rich putting their substantial gifts into the treasury. But if in that instance Jesus had no harsh word for the rich, neither did he commend them (Matt. 12:38-44). Jesus reserved his words of high praise for a very poor widow whose household had been devoured by the teachers of the law. The woman was so poor that all she had was nothing but two copper coins (a mite) worth less than half a cent. “Truly,” Jesus said, “I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.” He then went on to justify his view that seemed to be unfair to many rich people who put in large sums. He said that the rich contributed “out of their abundance,” whereas out of her poverty the widow “…put in everything she had, everything she had to live on,” including what she needed for her next meal.

The rich calculated how much they could afford to give. Casting their surplus money into the treasury was an exercise in painless giving. But the poor widow “gave with utterly reckless generosity which could give no more.” What she did was an act of worshiping God with all her heart, mind, soul and strength. There was MIGHT in the way she parted with her last MITE.

We may criticize the poor widow for giving all that she had as a misguided case of poor economic management. But to Jesus, the issue went beyond economic considerations to a higher level of what we may call an adventurous faith. Certainly, she deprived herself of means to meet her material needs; but through her costly giving she was “sowing the seeds of faith” (Barclay). She trusted solely in the comfort and providence of God. She relied not in worldly security but in the assurance that her future was in God’s hands. She abandoned self-protecting action strategies in favor of radical obedience to God. She showed unconditional trust in God’s care. In doing so, her life was elevated to a spiritual level far above and beyond a frenetic quest for worldly gain. Jesus said that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Paraphrasing his words Jesus would say to us today, “You show me your check book and I’ll show what is important to you. Show me how much you give to the Kingdom of God and then compare that with how much you spend on your personal hobbies, and I show where your priorities are.” “You see, money is nothing more than congealed personality. It is a barometer of our Christian discipleship” (www.eSermons.com, Nov. 2000).