Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle B, November 11, 2018
1 Kings 17: 10-16; Psalm 146: 7-10;
Hebrews 9: 24-28; Mark 12: 38-44
"The Widow's Mite"
By Rev. Liz Miller
Today, our gospel story is a contrast between the pride and greed of scribes with the humility and generosity of a widow.
The scribes were the interpreters of the law. The Pharisees were the upholders of the law. They liked to be seen. They walked around in long robes, they were always seated in a place of honor and for the sake of appearances they would recite long prayers. You would think that they would be following God’s law and be very spiritual men, but Jesus said, “They will receive the greater condemnation.” Jesus also said, to beware of the scribes because they focus on what they can get rather than what they can give. When people gain power, they sometimes lose compassion and take advantage of others.
Not all scribes were guilty of this; people who hold honored positions often served honorably. But places of honor tend to attract people who are not honorable. Just look at the recent elections and the politics of today and you will know what I mean. It seems our politicians only care about re-election and power. They spend time fighting the opposition party instead of solving the nation's problems. There are people in all walks of life who are willing to hurt someone else just to get ahead. Jesus says that they will receive the greater condemnation. What Jesus means is that he will hold the scribes and Pharisees to a higher standard because they know the scriptures and should know better. He will hold us all accountable.
Jesus taught us that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” How can we as Christians do any less?
Now, let’s look at the widow. Widows were especially vulnerable in a patriarchal society. The scribes acted as both lawyers and theologians. People trusted them. If the widow could not pay her mortgage, she would lose her house and all that she had.
In the time of Jesus, along the treasury wall there were thirteen large, metal, trumpet shaped receptacles to receive offerings. These are in plain view, and their clinking and clanging advertise the size of the individual offerings. The larger clanks would be more impressive than the smaller ones.
One day Jesus sat down just opposite the treasury and watched the crowd put money in the receptacles. People of honor came by and put in large amounts of money to be noticed by other people. You could hear the clings and the clanks all the way to the bottom. They did not miss their money because they had plenty. What they gave was just a small portion of what they had. Then along came a poor widow who put in two small copper coins, which were worth a penny. You could barely hear the small clang it made. This was not much money but large enough to matter to the woman. It would buy her a modest meal. Her offering was may have seemed insignificant, but Jesus noticed the two small clinks and he understood the significance. The widow was not trying to impress anyone with her two coins. She was expressing her love and her gratitude toward God. No one usually noticed the widow, but that day Jesus saw her heart.
Jesus does not condemn the large gifts of wealthy people but said that this woman’s offering was even larger. He looks not at what she gives but on what she has left. Out of her poverty she gave everything she had, her whole living. Jesus praised this woman because of her faith in God. Jesus is showing his disciples the meaning of true greatness. God does not demand that we drop every last penny in the offering tray, but Christ expects us to put God first, not last, and to do our giving quietly.
The widow’s two small coins show that even the humblest and the poorest can make a worthy offering to God. Her example will continue to bless people until the end of time.
I think Jesus is trying to tell us to do things for the right reasons. We should not try to impress others. It is not what we look like that is important but how we use God’s love to help others. God’s love makes us beautiful. God wants us to be real people.
God does not call us to impoverishment. He calls us to have a heart for God, to love God, to serve God and to let nothing stand between us and God; to have nothing that we love more than God. The widow did not have much but she had a heart for God. That is all we need……a heart for God.