Reflections on the Account of the “ Widow’s Mite”
“ Here are some of the other things He taught them at this time:
‘Beware of the teachers of religion! For they love to wear the robes
of the rich and scholarly, and to have everyone bow to them as
they walk through the markets. They love to sit in the best seats
in the synagogues, and at places of honor at banquets – but they
shamelessly cheat widows out of their homes and then, to cover up
the kind of men they really are, they pretend to be pious by praying
long prayers in public. …” Mark 12: 38-40 (The Living Bible)
It would be a rare Christian, who has never heard a sermon about the “Widow’s Mite” and how her generosity should be an example for each believer. As you probably recall, the ‘Widow’s Mite’ is an account of a poor woman who gave everything she had to the church. What the Rich Young Ruler could not do, she did without being asked! One of life’s minor characters, one of those invisible people who come and go without many people noticing them, she was probably unaware that anyone took notice of her or that she would be used as an “example” of sacrificial giving for future millenniums.
The story of the “Widow’s Mite” evokes strong feelings within me, perhaps more than any other biblical account. Please bear with me while I share that basis for my emotional involvement.
The first encounter took place over four decades ago. As a young man, I was quite active in an urban church, which I shall not identify. I agreed to be a member of the stewardship calling committee. A task that involved making home visits to a number of church members acquainting them with the needs of the church and soliciting their pledge of support. I had agreed to undertake this chore at a beginning of the year and the committee met several months before the commencement of the actual campaign. In the meantime our pastor left and was replaced by another who had the reputation of being a highly successful fund-raiser, a person supposedly badly needed by our inner-city church.
When the time arrived for us to undertake our canvassing, we were given a ‘pep talk’, a brochure outlining the needs of our church, and a list of members to visit. Among my contacts was a widow, who lived in a garret, three stories above the street. After explaining the needs of the church, she averred that even though she was living on a very limited pension, she could pledge one dollar a week. (Keep in mind that this was forty years ago.) I hesitated to even accept her offer as it seemed to be such a sacrifice considering her humble dwelling and limited income but I did so. Upon returning to the church and handing over this and the other pledge cards to our new pastor, he exclaimed, (and these are his exact words) “Hell, this won’t even pay for the heat she’ll absorb.” At this point I left that church and I did not return to it or any other church for over a decade!
However, my other memory evoked by the account of the “Widow’s Mite” occurred much earlier – in fact I was only three or four years old –a long time ago – the Great Depression years – times were tough and everything was in short supply! However, each day my sister brought home the dessert from her lunch for me, her little brother, who probably wolfed it down with little thought of the “cost” of her gift. Years later, recalling the tokens of her love, I asked her, “Did Mom put two desserts in your lunch so you could bring one home to me?” She replied, “Oh, no if she had done that it she had it wouldn’t have been a gift from me!” Might this be a modern day example of the “Widow’s Mite”?
I believe that the real message of the account of the “Widow’s Mite” is that her gift represents a sacrifice and her giving her all. There was a man witnessing her offering that day who later gave His all. He, too, was poor as was that widow. In fact, He had no financial wealth to contribute to the temple. Instead, He sacrificed Himself for us. He gave His all, everything for us. Jesus found a cause worth His all, have we?