The Widow’s Coins – Not What They Seemed

Reflection for 32nd. Sunday of Ordinary Time / Trinity 23.

Mark 12,41–44.

Today we shall look at the word ‘Giving’ especially Giving to God. We heard what Jesus said as He saw people put their gifts into the Temple Treasury – and not least, the poor widow. St John’s Gospel is a good place to start – both because the word ‘Giving’ occurs over 60 times – but it nearly always has ‘God’ for its Subject. Here are just three examples: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son . . . ’ [John 3,16]; Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment…’ [13.14]; and ‘He (the Father) will give you the Spirit of truth’ [14.16]. This means that God is not only its Creator and Judge of His World but is also the Supreme Giver of Gifts to it. Giving is an essential part of the Divine Nature – and we have a duty to worship Him.

The pennies of the poor widow. [Paulus Lesire, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

So why do many people (especially the young) find the whole idea of Worship alien to them? It’s not for their lack of Good Ideas. Many young people love a challenge; and initially the idea of ‘working with God’ is a very attractive one. Their Faith needs to have a ‘practical’ dimension – and some Churches (though far too few) provide that. Today’s problems spring from three different, but related, roots.

The first is the fact that we’ve all been subjected to the temptation to worship the World’s Values instead of God’s Virtues. Worldly Values aren’t always bad – but they always become so when we start ‘worshipping’ them by – attaching more ‘worth’ to them than we do to God. So, although we all need to be taught to value things that are really worthy – like Truth, Sincerity, Compassion, and not least, Faith, these have become displaced by popular notions such as Success, Fame and Prosperity: whose value varies from one day to the next, depending on Propaganda and Prejudice – and are therefore only of fragile, fleeting and uncertain value and credibility. It takes very little to turn worthy Values into their near-worthless, or even unattainable, counterfeits – like Fame, Security, Success, Happiness and Satisfaction. It’s not the Values themselves which are unworthy, but the fact that we make gods of them to worship – something the Bible calls ‘Idolatry’.

The Second off-putting truth is that Christian Discipleship may require us to give-up, or at least to modify, some of our most treasured plans, precisely in order to fulfil God’s Plan for us. Some of us, like most of the Apostles, will be called to forgo marriage; others will be called to give sacrificially of our time, or money; or modify our precious ambitions in order to enable God’s Plan for this World to progress, and His Plan for us to be fulfilled. Amongst those regular Temple-Givers that Jesus saw, there would have been some, especially the Pharisees and Sadducees, who believed and taught the falsehood that those who gave more were ‘better’ than those who gave less – and could therefore expect to be rewarded by God accordingly.

The third-off-putting truth we have to learn is that God’s way isn’t always our way of seeing things Jesus made this quite clear to His Apostles as they watched the people giving. For He insisted that, despite appearances, the Widow’s mites were worth far more in God’s eyes than all the other gifts taken together, thus giving a whole new dimension to the idea of Christian Giving.

Fr. Francis Gardom

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