Jesus and His disciples watch a widow put coins into the treasury offering box.

The Widow’s Mite, Seeds of Faith, 2016, Concordia Publishing House.

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A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, [Jesus] said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.  Mark 12:42-43.

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“Giving” is a byword for any Christian Church, Jewish Synagogue and Muslim Mosque in the world. It is a central tenet of religion, an awareness that there will always be people whose basic needs are not being met because they don’t have the money to do so. Additionally, those churches, synagogues and mosques cannot continue without the support of their members; God’s house requires human support. It is said that the 19th century immigrant churches of New York, Chicago, Atlanta and many other places were built with the pennies of the nearly destitute believers. God’s house was so central to their understanding of what life is about that they were prepared to give of their necessity rather than their surplus (of which there was none). Such was the faith and strength of belief of the widow spotted by Jesus. And, of course, thereby is the lesson for us today. I don’t know about you, but I get bombarded by begging letters every day in the mail. Various religious orders, charities doing good work, international appeals for disaster relief, on and on. Yes, I say to myself, if I supported all of these I would be bankrupted, and if so, then how could I support any? But isn’t that what the poor widow did? I am on the horns of a dilemma here, damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Help us Lord!

I think the Lord deliberately sets the stage in lessons like this for us to look deeply into our hearts and see what on earth is lurking there. Are we concerned about those who cannot take care of their own needs, or worse, those of their children? Do we care about the state of the church in which we worship the God of generosity towards us, who proved it by dying for us? Are our needs greater than the starving victims of a natural disaster? In such a direction, perhaps, our thoughts should go when examining the bank balance; we should become the poor widow on such occasions, swallow any miserliness we might have, and be generous. Another thing occurs to me comes from a coffee mug I have, which shows a middle-aged lady in thoughtful mode over the caption “I gave at the office years ago, and I wish I hadn’t”. But giving just one time is not enough. Jesus actually stated that we will always have the poor with us (Matthew 26:11). Their needs will always be a reality for many reasons. As long as we can, we have to keep giving. It might not be pleasant; it might go against the grain, but it must be done. I grew up in impoverished conditions: no hot water, no central heating (we had only one coal-fired stove in the front room), no proper bathroom (a porcelain hip bath was in the kitchen, the hot water for which had to be boiled on the gas stove and carried over in a large tin bath with two handles…. I shudder to think about that now). So now, in much more comfortable circumstances, I find it difficult for some reason to give to those who still suffer under such conditions. But I must. It wasn’t my fault or the family’s fault I grew up like that, it was the terrible time (the 1940s and 50s London) over which we had little control. Now it is, thankfully, different, and I am now in a position to help those who remain in such straightened circumstances. And help I must.

So perhaps the Lord is pushing us today, approaching the end of the church’s year, to consider some basics, such as the above. We are getting close to Christmas, a time of agony for some parents whose means forbid a great children’s feast. What can be done for them? And, while we are at it, what can be done for the widow, generous beyond her means, but beloved of God?


Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Apple Valley, MN, USA.

Today is special for aother reason. It is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, asking us all to remember those Christians in lands where they are persecuted for their faith. There are more than you might think. Please remember them in your prayers and help them as best you can in whatever ways are open to you.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.