The lectionary has brought us to Mark’s story of the widow and her mite. I have heard that passage used from the time of Sunday School on, mostly during stewardship drives, to exemplify what it means to give everything to God, to put all your life and trust in God, and to emulate this saintly woman who so courageously showed all of us how to do that. At the same time, we have been warned that the rich, meaning you and me, who give only of our surplus in amounts that won’t inconvenience us, are being sneered at by skeptical Jesus. It was just about then that Sunday School kids got their little cards with slots for dimes and quarters while the adults got pledge cards. A lot of what ifs come to mind.
What if those giving of their abundance were giving from the abundance of their love of God, their commitment to the community symbolized by the temple, and their desire to do God’s will? When you and I look for the abundance that is in our lives, where do we find it? In what way do you and I understand our duty, holy or otherwise, to be stewards of that abundance?
What if the widow was not a paragon of saintly virtue at all? What if, as she dropped in the coins, she thought, watching the scribes in their long robes and superior airs, “Screw it, they’ve taken everything else, they might as well have this as well and to hell with them all!”? Could we call that holy and righteous indignation?
What if the community lived up to God’s commandment to care for widows and orphans? Would she have been so impoverished then? Were the scribes even aware of her and the condition she represented? Did they ascribe to the kind of individualism that says sink or swim, lift yourselves up by your own bootstraps, and quit looking for a handout from us? Maybe she walked around the corner and got food, clothing, shelter and help renewing her life from the temple outreach mission?
What if those giving of their abundance began to wonder whether the conditions that lead to poverty might be ameliorated so that there would be fewer people needing the temple outreach mission?