Today's reading reminds me that chapters and verses were later inventions. Jesus had spoken of cheating widows out of their homes in the previous paragraph in chapter 20 and then mentions the poor widow giving all she had to the Temple.
The idea of the poor widow giving everything she had to God doesn't always sit well with the pragmatists among us. We think that she should have kept what she had in order to feed herself. It may cause us to have a dim view of organized religion. At the worst end of faith, we have the scandals of high profile ministers receiving the social security checks from the poor elderly so that they can air condition their dog's house or pay for that private jet.
This is certainly awful but we may miss the point. She wouldn't have enough to live on if that's all she had. She would rely on people of faith to step forward and help her in her daily need. The prophets continually remind to care for the widow and the orphan.
And so she donates to God.
It's a matter of dignity for her. She knows that she is dependent upon God's grace for survival - similar to the daily manna from heaven the Israelites received during the exodus. It is reflected in the prayer Jesus taught us, "Give me this day my daily bread."
It is more than what the rich gave because they weren't dependent upon God in their minds. They had plenty of resources to fall back on. They don't really believe that they need God - they'll take care of themselves.
Maybe that's what Jesus has in mind in Luke when he says, "Blessed are the poor for yours is the Kingdom of God." (6:20). If you are poor, you may be blessed because you have a greater understanding of how God works in your life.
|The Widow's Mite by James Tissot, c. 1890|