Proper 27 in Year B
I Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28, Saint Mark 12:38-44
You might think the writers of the Lectionary suspect that many parishes are having Stewardship Campaigns as these Lessons are read. The Lessons today give us two widows, two poor widows, and whether you are male or female, widowed, single, or married, I invite you to try to identify with both of these widows.
The widow in the Old Testament Lesson, the widow of Zarephath, is poor, dirt poor. And she is living through a severe drought. She has a young son, and her handful of meal and her little oil are just enough to prepare a skimpy last meal. But God intervenes through his prophet Elijah. And you remember what the prophet says: “The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” And you know how her story ends. “The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.”
What little she has is little enough. But it is enough. That’s the heart of the Lesson. She has little, but it is enough. If you read about this widow past the confines of today’s Lesson, you will learn that her son dies, but Elijah resurrects him by the power of the living God. This widow and her son are going to come to no harm, because they know their need of God, and they know God’s loving kindness.
The widow in the Gospel, the second widow, is also poor, dirt poor, but like the first widow she is rich, rich toward God. She shows how rich toward God she is by putting two small copper coins, all she has, in the temple treasury. Like the first widow, she relies on God’s word to live, and live she shall, just as the first widow does despite drought and death.
Both widows are poor in money but rich in spirit. Both have little money but discover that little money is enough when one is rich in spirit. With faith and with confidence that God keeps promises, both widows discover that their true happiness is in God and in God’s will.
My guess is that the widow in the Gospel could not double or treble her gift to the temple treasury. But I guess also that the people who give a dollar or two a week could double and treble that without breaking the bank.
The question I ask myself, and now I ask you, is this: How much do I need to give to signify that my faith is in God and not in my money? To me this is the crucial question. And I don’t mind telling you the answer I have made to it.
I suspect many know that a grim reality knocked on my door a little more than a year ago. Please notice I said “grim reality” and not the Big, Bad Wolf. I had the opportunity to declare in the distribution of my expenditures that, like the widows, my trust is in God rather than in the money I wasn’t giving away. Now I give to Good Shepherd 10%, a tithe, of the compensation I receive from Good Shepherd. I can tell you that since the grim reality knocked my life is richer than it was before. My gratitude to God is greater. And I have fewer concerns about money. There is a drawback, however. You have to try this faithfully in order to know whether it’s true. But the witness of many is that it is true. My chief concern is how to declare to God something of my gratitude. That question receives a different and perhaps a better answer each day I ponder it.
The world in which these widows live, and the world in which you and I live, the world disclosed to us by the Word of God, is a world where we have a choice to be rich in spirit. We have a big choice. We can live our lives like these widows, putting our trust in God. The choice is ours, and we work out our choice in the decisions, large and small, that we make every day of our lives. Your future choices are yet to be written. You can make whatever choices you want. Remember those widows. Most definitely, the choice to be rich in spirit lies very close at hand.