Mark 12 38 – 44
Jesus continued teaching. “Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function. And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get. But they’ll pay for it in the end.”
Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins – a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford – she gave her all.”
Widows are mentioned in both sections of this gospel. They represent the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. But those who “devour widows’ houses”, who multiply their sufferings, can be seen strutting around in public, even praying in public, seeking to be honoured. Such hypocrisy is hateful to Jesus.
Then Jesus sees a poor widow putting her last couple of small coins (“all she had to live on”) into the temple treasury. He is astounded and contrasts her generosity with the disposition (not necessarily bad) of the rich who made large offerings “out of their abundance”. Implicitly he may be criticising the religious authorities for the pressure they put on people to part with what they cannot afford.
Do I appreciate the qualities that can be found in the widows (and other poor) of my world?