One of my favorite Bible stories is the story of the widow’s mite or the widow’s offering.
It’s a story that appears only in the books of Mark and Luke. Mark, who is usually pretty sparing in his language, tells the more complete and interesting story.
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money in the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 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)
Giving to the temple treasury was a public act? You could sit and watch as people put in their offerings? It sounds like that could be a fun afternoon. Exodus 30:13 says that every male Jew over the age of 20 was to give an annual contribution of half a shekel to the temple. Half a shekel would have been worth about two days of labor.
But that was the minimum. Others obviously could and did give more.
Did Rich Person A wait until Rich Person B put in their offering so that they could make sure they met or exceeded it? Did one-upmanship in giving “guarantee” more favor from God? Did everyone watch to see if Semi-Rich Person C gave more than the required?
In the midst of the giving competition comes a widow giving her two coins worth only pennies.
She wasn’t required to give anything. But she went all in and gained the notice and favor of Jesus.
Jesus didn’t make a spectacle of what he observed. He could have entered the crowd and shouted “LOOK. Look at the generosity of this widow. Look at how she gave everything she had, while you make it a competition.”
But he didn’t. He quietly turned to his disciples and pointed out her action.
To put all of this in perspective, the next story in both Mark and Luke is the story of the destruction of the temple and the signs of the end times, followed by the story of the Last Supper. So we are at a point in the story where Jesus has entered Jerusalem, and has overturned the tables of the money changers at the temple. He has told the Pharisees to “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
It wouldn’t have been out of place for Jesus to publicly point out the widow’s action.
But as he neared the end, did he know he needed to focus on making sure his disciples knew the message they were meant to carry on? A message of God’s love, a message of generosity, a message of grace.
So, back to current times.
Yes, it’s stewardship time again.
You’ll be receiving invitation letters and commitment cards.
There’s no competition. Only you and the Financial Secretary know the number.
You are welcome to bring your commitment cards forward in public. You can do it privately through the mail or online. There are no requirements for “pledging” or for giving. We welcome and appreciate anything you are able to do to support the work of our congregation in the community.
No pressure, there aren’t crowds across the street watching what happens. But maybe Jesus will quietly note to his disciples that you gave all that you could.
Ann Iona Warner