Book of Mark

The widow’s mites and my recent vacation (Mark 12:41-44)

Pray
Father God, I come to you this morning with gratitude in my heart. I am grateful for your kindness toward me and toward those I love, as I hear story after story of your provision and protection. Even as I hear news reports of wars and natural disasters and famine and illness and all manner of suffering, I hear even among those reports news of your kindness and goodness toward those who are in the midst of it all. I pray now that you will awaken my heart once again to the truth of your word and to the power of your truth. May it pierce my heart and permeate my life.

Read
This morning I’m continuing through Mark, reading chapter 12, verses 41-44:

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “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.”

Reflect

There’s just something about God’s timing.

I don’t know about you, but over and over again, as I’m making my way through Mark in fits and starts—sometimes daily, sometimes weekly—I continue to marvel at how relevant the passages are to whatever I’m experiencing at the time I’m reading it. Some might call it “irony” or “coincidence,” but I call it “providence.” God numbers my days—and yours. God is the author of the passage that says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11, one of my favorite verses, incidentally.) And it is not uncommon for me to read a passage of scripture and find that it is, indeed, “a word fitly spoken.”

Like today, for example.

I woke up in (yet another) hotel room this morning. I am on (yet another) business trip, which my husband and I turned into a vacation by coming together and extending the trip by a few days. It has been wonderful, despite very poor weather. We have enjoyed some amazing meals, entertainment, rest, and relaxation as we meandered through the streets of Charleston, SC. We have discussed the architecture, gone to see a play in a local theater, and even went to a movie (“Lincoln”) after spending most of the day outside in the rain.

And we have spent money. I think the numbers on my credit card are getting worn down, it’s been run so many times in the past five days.

Last night, I began calculating how much we’ve spent on restaurants, car rental, flights, entertainment, and the hotel, and suddenly began to experience heart-pounding insomnia. Even though I am careful to find deals and travel as inexpensively as I can, these things add up. And while we can afford to take a trip every now and then, my mind immediately goes to those I know who are living in poverty, and I struggle with a sense of guilt.

So that’s what was on my mind as I (finally) drifted off to sleep last night, and then this morning, I opened my Bible and read about this woman who “out of her poverty, put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

I have heard this passage referenced many times throughout my life, and the message I always “hear” is “give til it hurts.” You should feel it when you give to God. It should cost you.

But today, that’s not what I’m hearing at all. In fact, as I sit here (now) in an airport, waiting to board my flight, and I contemplate this passage, I am “hearing” something very different.

Nothing about this suggests that this woman is “giving til it hurts.” In fact, rather than “giving til it hurts,” she probably gave til it produced joy! Knowing that God is the owner of “all she has to live on,” in faith, she entrusted what was already his back to him. I don’t think she was shaking or quaking as she deposited all she had into the offering. I think—and obviously this is my own projection—but I think that she gave that money with full confidence, and that is part of what Jesus wanted people to see. She demonstrated the quiet and gentle confidence that seems to possess those saints who trust God.

While others gave out of their abundance, demonstrating no sense of dependence on God or faith in God as their provider, she demonstrated full confidence in God by giving “all she had to live on.” She knew that it was all his anyway, and she both received and gave it in that posture.

Having this attitude is not a matter of how much money you have (or don’t have). There are wealthy people who understand that all they have is God’s, and they live with a sense of open-handedness toward God and toward others, blessing many. There are also wealthy people who don’t have that understanding, and no matter how much money they have, they are worried—and often that worry causes them to be tight-fisted, even if they have money to spare.

By the same token, I know people who don’t have two nickels to rub together, yet they live with a sense of holy abundance, resonating with the message of the Prodigal Father, who said, “All I have is yours!” They have an abundance of joy and an overflowing wealth of generosity, even in their poverty. They get it, and when the basket comes around, they are likely to give all they have to live on.

Apply
So what does this mean for me?

In part, I think it means that I don’t need to lay awake in bed worrying about money. I don’t think this widow did. I don’t think Jesus would have pointed out the exemplary giving of a woman who worried about money. He commended people for their faith, not their fear. I imagine a woman whose faith in God allowed her to sleep like a baby. So that’s one thing.

But I also think it’s a heart check for how I handle the money I have. If I understand that all I have to live on is God’s, I am generous, I am confident, and I am prayerful about how I handle my finances. Sometimes that means pinching pennies so that I can give more to blessing others. And sometimes, by God’s abundant grace, that means embracing a time of feasting when God opens a door for my husband and me to have a modest vacation.

Either way, all I have to live on is God’s.

What does this passage say to you? Please share your thoughts here. I am so enriched by your feedback!

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