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March 14th: The Widow’s Offering


Today’s devotional comes from Ann Schwarm.  A passage that holds a special place in her heart.  As I read her devotional, I realized I often read the widow as being timid.  I assume many of us do.  After all, so much in life was stacked against her.  Read it your way the first time.  Then maybe try to read the widow through a lens of confidence, being who God had created her to be.


Below is a picture of Ann's necklace. She wears it often because of the significance of the 3 charms in her life. The shell and the pearl remind her of James 1:12. It is what a mature faith does with a problem...it becomes a pearl. The cross was given to her at her confirmation in 1969. The coin is a replica of a "Widow's mite."




Scripture:  Mark 12:28-43


Like most of the selections in this Lenten Reading Plan of the Gospel of Mark, several major themes are addressed – the Greatest Commandment, Stumping the Religious Leaders, Warning Against the Religious Leaders and the one upon which this devotional will focus—The Widow’s Offering.


The Widow’s Offering

When I saw that the Lenten devotionals would be based on the gospel of Mark, I was quick to claim this scripture as one for which I’d share my thoughts.  This is a passage which reminds me of my mother who was an extraordinarily generous Christian.  I have claimed the widow’s story for myself as a “life verse” and in my Bible you will find a bookmark at this spot, reminding me to read these words again and again.  The widow has taught me many lessons that I am honored to share with you this Lenten season.

 

In verses 41-43, Mark writes “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins worth a fraction of a penny.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow put more into the treasury than all the others.  They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’”


The widow gave, not out of abundance, but out of scarcity.  I will hazard a guess that myself and most of you who are reading this don’t consider ourselves impoverished, at least financially.  But, I’m also quite sure that we have experienced scarcity in other aspects of our lives.  For me, I typically don’t seem to have enough time.  This is not to say that I need to take on each and every act of service presented to me.  However, the widow calls upon me to at least consider each opportunity prayerfully before giving my answer.  Scarcity of time is no longer an excuse that is acceptable.  That is lesson one.


Imagine with me the widow walking up the aisle to the treasury where she deposited the two copper coins.  A commentator described this area as containing thirteen trumpet-shaped chests where sojourners came to deposit gifts and the temple tax.  Sounds grand, doesn’t it?  The scripture tells us that “many rich people” were there.  They had already tossed in large amounts of money.  You get the picture.  A grand site with wealthy people already there is what the widow entered.  How did she feel?  As a widow, she already was slotted to the lower class of society then.  She was outnumbered, as well.  The scripture uses the word “many” to describe the rich folks already there.  And yet, she makes the walk to the treasury to deposit her seemingly meager offering.  Through this scene, the widow exemplifies courage and commitment.  She could have felt unworthy and incapable.  Instead, she makes the march.  This reminds me that God doesn’t call us to give only when we feel capable and worthy.  In fact, he doesn’t even call us to BE capable and worthy.  Like the widow, He only asks us to be faithful.  Lesson two.


The ultimate lesson the widow has taught me is that she is a woman with options.  I, too, have options, even though sometimes I just can’t see them.  The widow in Mark’s gospel had three options.  She could give nothing at all.  No one would have thought the less of her.  A commentator notes that Mark chose the Greek synonym for poverty which was descriptive of the “beggarly condition of a pauper.”  Poor widow!  She owes nothing…so she could have chosen to give nothing.  That was not her choice.  Her other option, which was her choice, was to give all.  Praise God, we are reading about her today, because she did.  Her generosity is an example for all of us.  As I see it, she had a third option.  She could have given half.  After all, she had TWO “very small copper coins.” 


Too often, I choose half…half of my time, half of my treasures, half of my talent.  And even worse, half of my trials and troubles.  Oh, yes, I offer up to God my worries, asking him to intervene.  But, as I am about to surrender all, I snatch back a bit to worry over, stew over, fret over, myself, thinking I need to be working out the solution on my own.  This third lesson convicts me each and every time.


I have a challenge for you.  Take two pennies and put them in your pocket each day for the rest of Lent.  Or consider placing the pennies where you will see them each day, perhaps on the window sill by your kitchen sink, on your night stand or by the sink in the bathroom.  When you see these “two small copper coins,” think of the widow and ponder what lessons she might teach you. 


Here is a second challenge, one I offered to the Bucket Buddies.  Close your eyes and consider how the widow looked.  How old was she?  What were her circumstances?  We, of course, don’t know the answers to these questions.  But, perhaps we can get closer to the heart of one of God’s most faithful by prayerfully imagining her.  One image shared during our Bucket Buddies’ gathering has stuck with me.  While the Biblical scholars would disagree, I find it inspiring.  One buddy said she sees the widow as “beautiful in her simplicity.”  I wonder if as the widow made her journey through the temple, perhaps bent with age, slow and disheveled as would be a homeless person, she radiated a spirit of God’s grace and mercy.  I believe she did, ultimately beautiful.


Questions:

1.       Re-read the other parts of today’s scripture lesson. What are these other stories telling you?

2.      What resource is the most difficult for you to “let go of”?

3.      How will you let the widow influence your life?


Prayer:

Dear Lord, Thank you for setting this example of selflessness before us.  Help us to know your will as we invest time, talents and treasures to your glory.  Keep us mindful of how we should live our lives for you.  In Christ’s name we pray.  Amen.


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