“For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:44 (NRSV)
Mark 12:38-44 tells the story of Jesus watching the treasury at the temple. He noticed how the scribes made such a production and show of their positions of prestige and wealth. They would approach the treasury and loudly proclaim what offering they were giving to as well as the amount. Apparently, they wanted everyone to know how wonderful they were – how pious – how faithful. It was all about them.
Then out of the corner of the room a poor widow stepped up to put in her tiny coins. She probably approached the offering jar as quietly as possible hoping that no one would notice what she was putting in, but Jesus noticed. He noticed because he recognized that the very scribes (lawyers) who were being so showy and pompous were probably also the ones who had gone to her house when her husband died to “help” her settle the estate and had charged a fee as well as exploited her so she ended up with nothing.
This story is about far more than how much money is put into the offering. It is about the attitude with which we offer ourselves to God. If God isn’t being honored, then we might as well put in nothing. It’s about giving our all to God. If we put ourselves first, we have not glorified God but tried to glorify ourselves, and let’s face it, we probably end up looking like fools. It is about not worrying about our appearances or our position or power but about recognizing that all we are and all we have comes from God. If we give ourselves to God fully, God will honor and bless us far more than we can ever imagine.
I’ve been visiting an elderly woman who is dying very slowly. Her decline began five or more years ago, and she has lived first on her own, then in assisted living, and now in a nursing facility where hospice has been called in. Yet, even when her family thought that she was surely going last summer, she continued to live but decline. Every time I see her she is just a little worse. She went from being always dressed “perfectly” to not caring about how she looks now. The earthly cares, possessions, things of this life no longer matter to her, but her family and her relationship with God matter. She now speaks in a whisper because she has lost her voice, but she still has that beautiful smile that always brightens the room when someone goes to see her.
When we are stripped of everything, we realize that it’s about life, love, and relationships. And for many who are dying, it’s about their relationship with God. They want to be “right with God” before they die. What if we all took that kind of attitude for our lives? Wouldn’t things and possessions and material goods fade away as God and our other relationships became more important? How do we “put in everything we have” to our relationship with God, with our spouse, with our best friend, with our children, with our co-workers, with our church family? Do we need a change of attitude? Food for thought as we enter this Advent and Christmas season.