“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 cents. 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.”
Mark 12: 41 – 44
Several years ago I visited a synagogue where a friend was the rabbi. His sermon was powerful and timeless when he asked a most profound question “what can make the human heart want to give?”
What made the widow in Jesus’ parable have a heart that wanted to give? What would inspire a woman towards a generous spirit when she was surrounded by those clearly without such a spirit? In fact her life was testimony for a person who likely received very little kindness or generosity or compassion or hospitality, as her poverty and difficulty suggest.
First century Israel was not a lot different than 21st century. Costs are high, challenges are manifest, the number of lost, abandoned, ignored, struggling, and homeless are rising. The sense of isolation is mounting, and the reality of want is manifest daily.
Yet in the midst of such challenges, generosity and kindness still abound – if we look for it, or are part of that giving spirit….
The other day I was at an outdoor event and it was pretty warm by New England standards.
In the audience, accompanying an attendee was a dog who clearly needed a frozen mocha latte or at least some water. The dog was panting at a rhythm and cadence the great drummer Sheila E would envy.
Sitting near me was a man who by dress was of meager means. He was missing a few teeth, and overall you could tell whatever he owned or purchased involved difficult decisions and hard earned but likely limited dollars. Next thing I know, the man is pouring water from his well worn thermos ® so the puppy could cool off.
The widow’s mite? All I know, I could feel God smiling that moment.
A number of years ago I attended a church where most of the members were financially ‘ok’ overall. Few were widows, and if they were, their late spouses took adequate care of them. But then a woman of meager means started to attend the church.
Like so many of us, she came recognizing church is a hospital for our damaged spirits, a place perhaps where we might find and receive some human if not Heavenly kindness.
If we only knew how many broken and sad souls show up at church wearing their Sunday best, and happiest face when down deep there are many tears shed that only God can see.
Getting back to the story, the woman was sitting in front of me during the service. Sometime after the sermon I could hear her rifling through her handbag. Soon I heard some coins jingling. The woman was searching with a sense of urgency as if she needed every last nickel, only occasionally stopping to check the clock behind us.
At first I thought she was trying to find bus fare before racing to catch the ride. Then it dawned on me, our church wasn’t on a bus route! Which made me wonder what was she doing?
I didn’t have to wait long for the answer. She got up, smiled at me, then head down as if to avoid other peoples’ eyes or attention, she dropped all the coins she could find, and placed them into the offering plate at the back of the church, then left the building.
Was this all she had? Having gotten to know the woman, I am on solid grounds suggesting this was all she had that moment, or even that day.
My eyes welled up then, having witnessed such selflessness, (I’m still teary eyed while I am typing this), as the story Jesus told of the Widow’s Mite came to life in my mind. I felt privileged that God let me share, albeit as audience, not participant, in this special moment.
What made someone with so little, give so much? Clearly the human heart wanted to give – in this person, the widow of Jesus’ story and hopefully you and me, too.
How often do we hear of a homeless person sharing what little they have with someone else? I’ve seen street kids caring for other runaways. Sometimes it is the ones who have struggled the most who know what it is like to need someone with a generous heart, and help on a level most will never experience.
But we can imagine what it means to need and what it feels like to help others.
“21 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasure, 2 and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. 3 So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”
Luke 21: 1 – 4.
Can you think of an example where God inspired the human heart to give, your human heart?
Throughout the Bible Jesus’ exhortations to do for the least of My brethren are plentiful. Generosity is by extension encouraged of course. But the widow’s mite takes on a special level of instruction encompassing the highest level of Jewish generosity – quiet, non-showy (anonymous) philanthropy, intent to help and advance the Lord’s Kingdom, and a heart for God – the human heart wanting to give.
What was her motivation? What is ours when we give – of our money, our time, ourselves? And do we give without reservation, without comparing what we lose personally to what we have returned to God.
The Widow gave all she had. I wonder if in fact she was thinking from a different perspective – returning to God, not giving. Perhaps she felt a sense of peace, or a bunch of gratitude based thoughts filled her, reminding that all we have is God’s; He lets us use it.
Put differently, do we take inventory in all God does for us, gave to us, and in gratitude feel driven to return some of it back to Him? To those who have much, much is expected.
I wonder if the Widow kept in mind sometimes all it takes is a few coins and a smile to God. On a daily basis, we know it too; whether directly or through a cup of coffee or a sandwich or well placed call or a meal for a homeless person, someone going through chemo, a recent widow, or someone struggling with job, health, spiritual crisis or?
The Parable of the Widows Mite – That Sabbath she didn’t hold back. Sometimes it is giving of our material blessings, other times it is our presence or outreach. Every day it is needed, every day someone does it. God willing we are that someone.