Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Widow's Mite

The Widow's Mite by James Tissot.

The line that gets me from the Widow's Mite is that she gave "all she had." I think of this righteous woman who held nothing in reserve, and I am amazed at her faith. Too often I'm only willing to give what's comfortable, not everything.(From Luke 21: 1-4)

Widow’s Mite- Poverty

We were never well-to-do, even when Thomas was alive, but his death made things so difficult. I’ve been able to subsist from trading a few things from my meager garden and helping the women near me with mending and housework for a loaf of bread or a basket of figs. Rarely do I even see money anymore. Then one day Doris, my neighbor, grew ill. For three weeks I sat at her bedside, doing the best I could for her, mopping her brow and trying to lift her spirits with a gentle word. I also cooked as best I could and gave the children a little direction. Finally, I could see the warmth returning to her cheeks, and we all rejoiced.
As I prepared to leave, her kind husband handed me two mites. It was the first coin money I had seen in months. I clutched it to my chest all the way home and then paused. Had not God sustained me during this difficult time? It had been so long since I had given him anything in return. Granted, the reason was I had nothing to give but, looking at the coins in my hand, I rejoiced that I could go to the temple and make an offering to Him who had sustained me.
As I turned, I looked down at my worn shift and robe. The two mites could purchase new fabric. Then my gaze flitted to the roof which leaked during the rainy season. It could be mended for the amount in my hands and I’d have enough left over for a veritable feast. Yet I knew what I must do, and marched down the dusty road, not looking back.
Without anyone seeing me, I slipped past the wealthy men who brought their great gifts and stood in the corner. Seeing their riches, I wondered why the Lord would even care about my simple offering. I almost faltered and hoped that no one saw me as I slipped the two mites in the box, giving all that I had with faith in my heart that somewhere, somehow the Lord would provide.
I don’t know if anyone saw me or whether my small token even made a difference to anyone else, but it made a difference to me. As I walked away, I knew my sacrifice was accepted of the Lord and I was filled with peace.


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thrufaithalone said...

Very nice traditional interpretation - but, like Jesus said, we have made Scripture of none effect by our tradition. I would urge you to take another look at the story of the widow's mites in context:
Mark 12:38-44
"And in his teaching he said, 'Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.'"
"And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.'"
1. Jesus actually says NOTHING to commend the widow for what she did. Words of praise are ABSENT.
2. Jesus' statement is one of RELATING FACTS as He observes (She gave more than they all because she cast in all her living)
3. Jesus says NOTHING about how the widow FELT about what she gave.
4. The warning to beware of the scribes "who devour widows' houses" in vs. 40 parallels Jesus' use of a widow as His example.
5. Jesus gave no instruction that constitutes a separate lesson apart from “Beware of the Scribes”, i.e., He did not tell the disciples “Go thou and do likewise.”
6. If this were a lesson on giving, Jesus could have just as easily chosen a "poor man" as His example - or simply a "poor woman", but He was very specific in His choice of "a poor widow." This ties it to His criticism of the Scribes who He said were "devouring widows' houses in vs. 40.
Scripture repeatedly reveals God's care for the widow, the poor, the fatherless and the stranger, and also reveals His anger at those who deprive them of what they need to live. If we have read all of our Bible, the story of the widow's mites, given in context of Jesus' condemnation of the religious leaders, should make us cringe. The story reveals the repetition of their abuses and consequential inevitable judgment. If we continue to teach the story of the widow's mites as an example of how to give, we are no better than the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day....and we will receive the same judgment.
Most pastors take this story out of its context. It makes no sense that Jesus, who is in the middle of a warning to His disciples about the scribes devouring widows' houses, would suddenly interrupt the lesson with a story on giving by poor widows. I believe that the story is part and parcel of His warning and an illustration of how the scribes were "devouring widows' houses."
I have heard preachers and bible study teachers go so far as to say that the widow probably received more than she gave. This is patently ridiculous considering that the corrupt religious leaders were "devouring widow's houses."
Additional food for thought: Jesus had just condemned the corrupt system of Judaism - if this is an example of how to give, and if we are to follow the widow's example, we would be giving everything we have to corrupt, apostate religious institutions.