The Gospel of Mark: a commentary & meditation 
"This poor widow has put in more than the rest"

Gospel reading: Mark 12:38-44

38 And in his teaching he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to go about in long robes, and to have salutations in the market places  39 and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."  41 And he sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.  42 And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. 43 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 treasury.  44 For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living."

Meditation: What is true religion?  Jesus warns his disciples against the wrong kind of religion. In his denunciation of the scribes (the religious experts of his day) , he warns against three things:  the desire for prominence rather than selfless service; the desire for deference and recognition (and seeking esteem from others) rather than seeking to promote the good of others through humble service and love; and thirdly, attempting to use one’s position (even a religious position) for self-gain and self-advancement. True religion is relating rightly to God and to one’s neighbor with love, honor, and reverence.  The Lord puts his Spirit within us that we may be filled with the joy of his presence, the joy of true worship, and the joy of selfless giving and love for others. True reverence for God frees the heart to give liberally, both to God and to neighbor.

Jesus taught his disciples a dramatic lesson in giving with love. Love doesn't calculate; it spends lavishly! Jesus drove this point home to his disciples while sitting in the temple and observing people offering their tithes. Jesus praised a poor widow who gave the smallest of coins in contrast with the rich who gave greater sums. How can someone in poverty give more than someone who has ample means? Jesus' answer is very simple: love is more precious than gold! Jesus taught that real giving must come from the heart. A gift that is given with a grudge or for display loses most of its value. But a gift given out of love, with a spirit of generosity and sacrifice, is invaluable. The amount or size of the gift doesn't matter as much as the cost to the giver. The poor widow could have kept one of her coins, but instead she recklessly gave away all she had! Jesus praised someone who gave barely a penny –  how insignificant a sum –  because it was everything she had, her whole living. What we have to offer may look very small and not worth much, but if we put all we have at the Lord's disposal, no matter how insignificant it may seem, then God can do with it and with us what is beyond our reckoning. Do you know the joy and freedom of giving liberally
to God and to neighbor with gratitude and love?

"Lord, all that I have is yours.  Take my life, my possessions, my time and all that I have and use them as you desire for your glory."

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 (c) 2000 Don Schwager