The story of the widow and the two coins often makes its way into sermons during church fundraising campaigns, where the woman’s generosity is praised because of her complete devotion. I’ve always wondered why preachers didn’t focus on rich people contributing large sums, which would seem a more effective stewardship message. But as this text has been interpreted over time, many have seen Jesus’ words as an affirmation of the widow’s sacrifice, and perhaps that’s why she’s become the hero.
In fact, all Jesus does is point out a fact: As a portion of overall income, the widow—who had little to begin with—has contributed all she had. In verse 40, Jesus denounces those who “devour widows’ houses,” which is an apparent reference to injustice borne by widows. For this reason, some commentators argue that Jesus’ words condemn a system in which someone who has so little feels so obligated—or desperate—to give her last penny. But the Gospel writer doesn’t explain any giver’s motivations. All in the story give to the treasury, some out of their abundance and some out of their poverty.
We are left with a dramatic portrait of the scene: all those people passing by the treasury to make their offerings. Maybe the wealthier people were laughing and joking with one another as they easily made their gifts. Maybe they saw the widow but weren’t sure how to respond. Was she hunched over, shuffling forward to make her offering? Did others make way for her to pass, lowering their voices in awkwardness or shame? Did they rush forward to help when her shawl slipped from her shoulders? Did she meet their eyes, and would they meet hers? Did a moment of human connection pass between them?
What did each of them long for in that moment, that moment of seeing each other face-to-face?
Brother Jesus, help us see your face in all those we meet. Amen.
Ruth’s story forms part of the background of the family of Jesus. The son of Ruth and Boaz, Obed, is David’s grandfather. The women of Bethlehem rejoice with Naomi at the birth of her grandson, and the psalmist declares that children are a blessing from God. In the scriptures, children are spoken of only as a blessing, never as a liability (unlike some narratives in our culture). The writer of Hebrews builds upon the eternal nature of Christ’s sacrifice, proclaiming that his death was sufficient once for all. In Mark, Jesus warns his disciples not to be fooled by appearances. Those who put on a big show of piety do not impress God. God wants us instead to give from the heart, even if no one but God sees.
Read Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17. Who are the people in your community who lack the basic provisions for a safe and healthy life? How do you try to help meet their needs?
Read Psalm 127. In what ways do you invite God to be part of your work?
Read Hebrews 9:24-28. When have you eagerly waited for something? How did that feel?
Read Mark 12:38-44. How do you practice generosity in the way you allocate your resources and time?
Respond by posting a prayer.
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