“Jesus sat down opposite the Temple treasury, watching people put money into the offering box. Many rich people gave large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to him, he said, ‘Truly this poor widow put in more than anyone; for they gave out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, gave all she owned, all she had to live on.'” – Mark 12:41-44
Sometimes I think Jesus, being God’s son and everything, just doesn’t understand the problems of everyday people.
Take today’s scripture from Mark 12. There’s a part of me that wants to take Jesus aside and rebuke him. “Seriously, Jesus? You’re actually encouraging her to give ‘all she has to live on?’ The woman is already on welfare! That was her next meal! Now what’s she going to do?” The whole scene makes me think of a televangelist preying upon the elderly and then driving away in a gold Cadillac.
Then I imagine Jesus turning to look at me, his eyes full of love, love so gentle and pure it burns. Reflected in his eyes I see my abundance, my absurd number of possessions, my mortgage, my health club membership, my 401k, my… well, you get the idea. In short, I see my profound poverty; spiritual death by a thousand little cuts.
If I was feeling particularly cheeky in that moment I might remind Jesus that I am giving 10% of my income to charity and the church! But I know that is only a beginning. Though I have to make some lifestyle decisions to keep that commitment, I’m still “giving out of my abundance.” Not much sacrifice there.
For many of us, most of the time, myself included, our giving amounts to giving God our leftovers. After we’ve paid for everything else – some essentials, like food and shelter, plus a whole list of other things we think we need – from whatever’s left, we might give some of that away.
The truth is Jesus wants all of me and everything I have, “all I have to live on,” so that his gift of abundant life can live on in me.
Holy and generous God, though giving 10% of our income often seems difficult to achieve, give us courage to embrace it as the first step to a life devoted wholly to you. Remind us that there is no hymn entitled “I Surrender Some.” All glory be to you God of amazing and abundant grace. Amen.
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.