Sunday Readings: 1 Kings 17.10-16; Hebrews 9.24-28; Mark 12.38-44
In the course of his teaching, Jesus said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and observed the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” – Mark 12.38-44
Mark deliberately juxtaposes the shallow, opportunistic actions of some scribes and a widow’s gift of the little she has to the temple treasury. The two parts of Sunday’s gospel contrast people who act for show and profit with a woman who gives from the heart all she has. Jesus criticizes those who like long robes and the best seats and prey on widows. “Devour their houses” are the words Jesus uses.
Typically widows were poor in Jesus’ time. A woman lost social standing and financial support when her husband died. This common plight of widows made care for them the usual measure of goodness for Jews. God hears their cries. The widow in this gospel gives to the temple. She can’t give much but she belongs to this people who worship there. She is the model donor because she gives all she has; it’s a gift of the heart and of faith. Her story anticipates Jesus’ passion, in which he gives all he has.
The widow who takes in the prophet Elijah during a famine gives us a Gentile model of generosity. She has only enough flour and oil in her jars for one more meal for her son and herself; nonetheless she shares their last meal with the prophet and neither jar ever run empty.
Who challenges your authenticity as a follower of Jesus?