Trust is the core virtue on display in the story of the widow’s mite. Money is just the vehicle and religious pretense a distraction.
“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 only a few cents.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44
Money! It’s the god that has outlasted dynasties and pantheons of gods over thousands and thousands of years. Yes, there has been Nile gods, sea gods, gods of weather, gods of rain, gods of fertility and gods of cats and dogs. They have never held the power like the god you can carry in your pocket and get what you need or want. That god has outlasted the worship of so many since antiquity.
But at play in this story, is the second most sought after god: the god of pretending.
Both are poor substitutes for trust in God.
I believe this widow had so orchestrated her life that she and God had worked to wean her off of both these false gods. She had dressed up to celebrate this day. She was exhilarated. She knew God would see her act—and he did, all three of them did….it was a profoundly important event.
You see, two titans of trust were meeting that day. Jesus was there to celebrate her on the special day. Jesus stopped to recognize and celebrate her, not only for her sake, nor just for the disciplines nor just for our sake, but for His.
She and He were on the same journey up the summit of trust, nearing the peak. He would go even further.
Professional hikers know this experience. After days of extreme challenges and altitude sickness and wondering if you can make it, then you run across another party also making the challenging ascent. So happy to still be alive and extremely grateful to see another group, the celebration of the other’s success inspires their own. Self-doubt slips away as they admire another who has paid the same price to make the same journey.
The widow would give all, but keep her clothes—the most basic fundamental human gift God never takes from anyone (see Adam and Eve’s first gifts. If a power does strip clothes I use it as evidence of the ultimate evil of Satanic powers.)
Jesus would give all.
That is why he was attracted to the widow because they were both coming to the same deep trust and reliance on God. Jesus would go further up the summit but she would share with Him the same basic trust in God.
This story should be disturbing to those of us from affluent positions or countries. Jesus reminds us that giving out of abundance may be nice, but giving from deep trust, manifested in giving up on the idols of money and fame, is the most important gift to give to God.
It suggests you trust Him, really really trust him.
I meet an elderly lady at my church this weekend. She goes to Pioneer Memorial Church and I will call her Florence—she is older than 90. She was moving through the church, silently, wistfully, and I can tell, deeply happy in Jesus—hoping, believing, trusting, giving, praying.
This is what God wants more than anything else. We learn to trust each other.
Lord, take me on this journey that trusts and gives up on money and fame as a God.
Maybe that is why giving money away is so good for you and I.