“As I sit down to write this, USA Today has on the front page what it calls “GOP power rankings,” accompanied by a picture of candidate Ben Carson and the headline “Carson now on top.” A millionaire taking over the lead from a billionaire. Over in Section B there is a long story about “Wealthy CEOS.” It says that the largest 100 CEO retirement packages have about $4.9 billion dollars in them, equal to the combined retirement funds of 41 percent of the American people.
This picture of wealth and power is in sharp contrast to the two widows we read about in the readings. The widow of Zarephath is down to her last bit of food, intending to feed it to her son before preparing to die. Jesus says the widow in the temple “gave all that she had,” “two small copper coins.” In modern terms it’s enough for a cup of coffee and some fries, maybe a small burger at a fast-food restaurant. Just enough to get by.
Most of us have heard stewardship sermons about the widow’s mite. These sermons lift her up as an example of true giving. We’ve been told that it’s not the size of the gift that matters, it’s what’s in the giver’s heart that counts. “Have you given your all?” we’re asked. “Have you done everything you could? Did you give until it hurt your pocketbook or just until it didn’t tweak your conscience anymore?” And then we’re told to look at the widow, giving all she can, all she has, because she cares that much.
Well, those sermons are somewhat effective with some people, and there is even some truth in them. But they do not truly get to the heart of the text, to the core of the story we have before us. In this story, the emotion that matters is not one’s devotion to the cause but rather one’s ability to trust completely in God and God’s future. Jesus does not belittle large gifts as being unworthy – he simply points out that the big givers gave out of their abundance while the widow gave out of her poverty. The wealthy still had plenty left to depend on – like the 100 CEOs depend on their plush retirement accounts. The widow put in all she had, everything, and Jesus applauds her because her action shows true faith – placing our faith and our future completely in the hands of God.
This is what the widow of Zarephath did. After she told Elijah how little she had, he told her to give it to him anyway, promising that God would provide for her and her son throughout the drought, that they would have meal, oil and water to make bread as long as they needed it. And she believed the promise of the prophet. She entrusted her future to a God who was not even her own God, to the prophet of a people who were not even her own people. With absolutely nothing else to fall back on, she risked all, trusting in the word and love of God.”
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Sourced from: ELCA
Special thanks to ELCA, Living Lutheran and Delmer Chilton for sharing this article