For all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but the widow out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on (Mark 12:44)
My maternal grandmother was a widow for over forty years. A long time to be on your own. I never knew my grandfather. She used to tell us that having grandchildren opened up a new lease of life for her. Without that, life may have been difficult and more challenging. Those were the days, for many, when there were no credit cards or easy cash available unless you had a friendly, local bank manager. You were expected to live within your means. Sometimes she would comment upon the cost of living or how prices had risen. As young boys, that meant very little to us. Only when I started to work myself, to pay bills and to have a mortgage did I begin to understand the need to balance the books.
If I was to ask you whether anything struck you about our gospel reading, what would you say? Would it be the large crowds listening to Jesus or the scribes walking around in their long robes being greeted with respect? Would we feel impressed watching the rich people putting large sums into the treasury or them sitting in the best seats in the synagogue?
What struck me was that Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and watched people putting money into it. He took the time, despite the crowds, to notice and comment upon the actions of people - in particular – a widow. I doubt anyone else noticed her or paid much attention to her. Even if they did they would probably have been dismissive and rather disdainful.
The only thing we know is that this widow was poor. She gave everything she had. We are not told anything more about her. We don’t know her name nor do we know how long she had been a widow. We don’t know whether she had any family who supported her or where she would get more money from.
The widow might have kept one coin. It would not have been very much but it would be something, yet she gave everything she had. Why? If I was honest, there is invariably some part of our lives or our activities, some part of ourselves which we do not give to God. Invariably we want to hold onto something or hold something back. We don’t want to give it totally up.
Professor William Barclay comments that “It is a strange and lovely thing that the person whom the New Testament and Jesus hand down to history as a pattern of generosity was a person who gave a gift of little value in monetary terms. We may feel that we have not much to give in the way of material gifts or personal gifts to give to God, but if we put all that we have and are at his disposal He can do things with it and with us that are beyond our imaginings”.
In the well-known hymn “Take my life and let it be” by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879) she refers to us offering up to God our life, our hands, our voice, our silver and gold, our will and, in the last verse, our love. As we reflect upon the generosity of the poor, un-named widow may we sing in our hearts
Take my love; my Lord, I pour,
at thy feet its treasure-store;
take myself, and I will be,
ever, only, all for thee.