Mark 12:41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few pence. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’
I was at a Deanery Synod last night (feel sorry for me!) and people were talking about money, basically the diocese doesn’t have enough cash to do all it wants/needs too, and being anglicans, we all pay money into a central pot so that we all help each other out, especially meaning we can support Churches in areas which might not have a Church otherwise (which is why you rarely see more congregational Churches in deprived areas!).
As I looked at all these numbers, I suddenly realised how impressed I was by the big successful Churches large pledges of money, and didn’t pay so much attention to the small Churches little pledges, and then suddenly realised as someone said about even though they were a tiny congregation they were giving sacrificially, and I began to think about this story, and quietly repented in my head for my materialistic thinking.
If you have a lot of money it is easy to appear generous without taking much of a hit, whereas when you are generous with the little you have to survive on that shows greater love and commitment to the cause.
In our world the celebrity cheque is greeted by the flash of cameras and cheesy grins and yet probably cost the giver very little, whereas the poor family moved to give out of a tight budget might not be greeted by the glare of publicity but is actually showing greater love and compassion.
The same is true of other giving too, often we praise those who are always at Church doing things, often the retired who enjoy coming along to stuff, but can overlook the mum who just helps out every Friday with the youth group, when for her this is possibly a bigger and more costly sacrifice giving up her one free evening to serve.
In Mark’s gospel the text is continually ‘flashing forward’ toward the Passion narrative, Jesus’ death on the cross for us was not him making a small contribution but giving his everything. What of us are we giving our everything in return?
“Were the whole realm of nature mine that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!
So, lets pray we are generous people, pray we see generosity of the heart not seduced by the amount, care more about the heart that has given than the zeros on the cheque.
People might be getting stressed at me by this point, because there is also another interpretation to this passage.
t is a classic Mark Sandwich, where the first and third paragraph is counterbalanced by the middle story, the widows mite is in-between the Pharisees “Church and State” argument about paying Taxes to Caesar and followed on by Jesus prophesying the destruction of the Temple “As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” (Mark 13.1&2)
Mark is attacking the religious institutions obsession with buildings and wealth and neglect of the heart. Although Jesus praises the woman’s sacrificial giving, I wonder too whether Mark is showing how exploitative the Temple had become? The wealth and grandeur of the religious establishment ‘look at these wonderful building’ but is squeezing a poor widows of their last penny. Jesus had already driven the money lenders and merchants out of the Temple two chapters earlier.
Sadly this money grabbing nature which places the finery of its buildings and the continuation of the religious establishment above the care of the poor and vulnerable.
I think both interpretations work together and think Jesus is actually saying both.
A challenge to us, are we people who give sacrificially?
Are we people who are seduced by wealth, or see the sacrifice of the heart?
Are we people who challenge exploitative systems that rob the poor?
Lets live radical lives of generosity, sacrifice and fighting for justice.