“The Widow’s Might” (Mark 12:38-44)

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
November 11, 2018

“The Widow’s Might” (Mark 12:38-44)

Our text today is the story known as “The Widow’s Mite.” It’s the story of a poor widow who goes to the temple and puts into the offering box two “small copper coins,” as our translation has it. But the King James Version had as the equivalent for “small copper coins” the old English word “mites.” “She threw in two mites, which make a farthing,” the King James says. Thus the familiar title for this story, “The Widow’s Mite,” m-i-t-e.

But today I want to talk to you more about “The Widow’s Might,” m-i-g-h-t. For this story tells us much about the widow’s might, her strength, her source of power to do what she did. Where did she find such might, such courage, to sacrifice even her last two coins? And where will we find that kind of might in our day, in our lives? That’s what we want to find out.

So Jesus is at the temple in Jerusalem, and he’s brought along the disciples. Jesus sits down to watch people put money into the offering box. Of course, Jesus can see more than just the action. He sees the heart.

Here come the rich and wealthy people. They can put in a lot, large amounts, and many of them do. But then comes this woman, all by herself. She’s a poor widow. Perhaps she’s not dressed as nicely as the rich people. She doesn’t have a big fat checkbook to get out. Maybe it’s just an old, threadbare little pouch. She takes out two small copper coins–that’s all she has–and she quietly drops these two small copper coins into the offering box.

Well, that’s not very impressive, especially after all those large gifts. After all, that coin she dropped in was the least valuable coin in use at the time. The “lepton” (that’s the Greek word) or “mite” (that was the closest old English equivalent) was worth less than a penny. And she dropped in two of those coins. Big deal. I bet she had the smallest offering there that day.

Yeah, we might say, that chintzy little offering doesn’t amount to much. But not in Jesus’ eyes! One small copper coin–half a penny. Two small copper coins–one penny. But this poor widow’s offering–priceless!

Jesus calls the disciples together and explains why: “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” In other words, in terms of actual amount of giving, those rich people with their offerings had her beat by a long shot. Her little gift could not compare. But in terms of percentage giving, proportionate giving, sacrificial giving–what she gave, in comparison to what she had–this poor widow had the largest offering there that day. For she gave everything she had. You see, for a Warren Buffett or somebody like that to write out a check for a thousand dollars, or even a million–that’s chump change for those guys. But for a poor widow to give all of her meager income, “all she had to live on”–well, that is quite remarkable. And so Jesus remarks on it. The widow’s mite is mighty impressive indeed.

Now at this point I could just say, “Go and do thou likewise.” Increase the percentage of your giving. Do you even know what percentage your giving is, in comparison to your income and assets? Is it 1%? A half a percent? Hey, the poor widow gave 100%! “All she had to live on.” C’mon, get with the program! Get out your checkbooks! You’ve got it! We need it!

Well, if I were to put it that crassly, I would not be doing justice to the text. I would not be doing justice to the gospel. I would just be dumping a heaping helping of guilt and pressure upon your heads, trying to shame you into giving. Or maybe that would puff you up a bit, if you do happen to give a larger percentage of your income, say, 10% or more.

Now there is a point to be made here. If we have been rather low in the percentage of our giving, maybe we do need a reminder, because our giving has not been very sacrificial. A low-percentage offering can be a reflection of a low level of love for God and a lack of zeal for the work of his church. That could be. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. And where your treasure isn’t–well, that says something about your heart as well.

Has your love and zeal for God and the mission of his church grown cold? Whether in our giving or our doing or our praying, if we have faltered or slackened in this regard, we need to repent. “Lord, forgive me for my apathetic, self-centered heart! For my lack of trust in you! Renew me in my love for you and in my zeal for the gospel! Help me to put that into practice in my giving!”

Friends, the good news today is that God does indeed forgive you and renew you and help you! He forgives you for the sake of Christ Jesus his Son. St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Yes, the Son of God left the riches and comfort of heaven and came down into our world of misery and sin. Christ came to this world of greedy hypocrites and poor widows, and he himself became poor. He came and walked in our shoes. Jesus was not rich. He got hungry and thirsty and tired. He saw the human condition, up close and personal. He experienced it. He knew the rich and the poor. He looked at the rich young ruler and loved him. Jesus looked with mercy on the poor widow.

Jesus saw all the sin and misery in this world–including our own cold, lackluster hearts–and he did something about it. He bore the weight of our sin upon himself and carried it to the cross. That cross became the temple where he gave the greatest sacrifice of all–himself. Jesus gave 100%. His soul unto sorrow. His body unto death. His holy precious blood, shed on the cross for your redemption. No greater sacrifice could ever be made. Christ, the Son of God, giving himself for you. Jesus’ offering of himself–the shed blood of God’s own Son–is of such infinite worth that it covers all your sins and the sins of the whole world.

Brothers and sisters, God does forgive you. Be assured of that today. And he will renew you. He will help you to put your faith and love into action. In Holy Baptism you received the Spirit of God, and the Spirit will help you to grow in that grace, including the grace of giving.

You see, when it comes down to it, what is so commendable about the widow’s mite is not so much the amount or even the percentage. What is commendable is that this poor widow gave her offering out of love for God and with faith in God to supply her needs. Her love for God was engendered by God’s great love for her. It was a response, a free and thankful response to the Lord who had showered his love and care upon her and on his people.

And the widow’s mite also was an act of faith, faith in God to supply her needs. She trusted in God to take care of her, even though she just put in everything she had, all she had to live on. For God had promised to take care of her, and God is faithful to his promises. The widow, in particular, had the promise of God’s care. In Old Testament Israel, there were special provisions built in for the widow and the orphan, the least powerful and most helpless people in the land. “The Lord upholds the widow and the fatherless,” we heard in Psalm 146. This kind of care for the poor and powerless–that when you have nothing else and no one else to rely on, you can rely on the Lord to take care of you and provide for you–this was the promise that this poor widow was trusting in.

Dear friends, you can trust in God’s promise too, whether you are a widow or whatever your circumstances, rich or poor or anywhere in between. You can trust in God, your heavenly Father, to take care of you. He took care of your greatest need, when he sent his only Son to be your Savior and to give you eternal life. Will he not also with him graciously give you all things? Will your Father take care of you now in this life? Yes, he will! Yes, he does! God gives me “clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” Jesus says, “Trust in your heavenly Father to take care of you. He feeds the birds of the air, doesn’t he? Are not you of more value than they? Yes, you are. He clothes the lilies of the field, doesn’t he? Will he not much more clothe you? Yes, he will.” Brothers and sisters, you are God’s own children, children of the heavenly Father, purchased with the precious blood of Christ, baptized into Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Yes, dear ones, your heavenly Father will take good care of you. You can trust his promise, just as this poor widow did. And that promise of God will free you up to give and to love and to give anything or even everything you have. You will be freed up to give with all your might and all your mites. The gracious promise and loving care of God–this was the source of the strength and courage and might of the poor widow. And it is the source of your might also.

Published in: on November 10, 2018 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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