Since coming back from Sierra Leone, I’ve found myself in a bit of a conundrum…
Not surprisingly I’ve been thinking a lot about money; how to raise it, how to give it to our friends there, and how to enable them to become more self-sufficient. One story that keeps coming to mind, however, is that of the widow giving her mite in the Temple (Mark 12:41-44). Why does Jesus single this particular woman out? As a widow in a society without the Welfare State she was vulnerable and clearly poor and yet, despite her situation, her she is giving sacrificially. The amount may be small to those around her, but to her parting with those small coins costs dearly. You could read this passage and hear Jesus’ praising her generosity, or encouraging us to tithe. But is he? I’m not so sure. If you read it in its context, a very different picture emerges. Jesus has just been criticising the religious leaders of his day for the way that they flaunt their status and live easy lives on the back of sacrifices of others (check out his stinging criticism in the previous verses, Mark 12:38-40). Having denounced them for this, he then turns around and points out the poor widow who is paying her Temple Tax although it is more than she can really afford. It doesn’t say she does it willingly. Rather it implies that she does it out of a sense of duty enforced by those who will benefit.
The New Testament promotes a very different attitude to wealth. It encourages us to give to those that have need, not because we have to, but because we want to. We are encouraged to give because God has generously given to us and so we should reflect that generosity. We give because it is an example of the Kingdom that has drawn near in Christ. We don’t give because we are told to or have to. As Paul writes, ‘Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.’ (2 Corinthians 9:7-8)
…and there is the conundrum. I want to encourage the church to give to our family in Sierra Leone, and other local causes such as Young Life, and I want to encourage you to give to the church so that we can do this, and yet by asking I run the risk of falling into the trap of the Widow’s Mite!
Church Newsletter Article for Sunday 6th February