“And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” (Mark 12:41-44 KJV)
When I hear pastors open with this passage I often shutter and wonder what kind of fleecing we are about to be in for. The focus on the need for giving by percentage rather than by amount certainly has it’s merits. I appreciate the insight Jesus provides for His disciples as He watches the process of giving within the temple. Yet, I think there is a whole lot more to what Jesus is trying to show His disciples than some may care to really look for. Have you ever watched a person who has had a terrible accident go through rehab? Some of the most basic tasks that this person used to be able to perform with only minimal thought or consideration now warrant huge applause and excitement. To watch someone struggle so hard and work constantly at whatever the lost functionality is and then see them accomplish their goal brings out an enormous life giving praise with a rough power equivalent of a geyser. Perhaps you have seen an addict turn over his last bottles or his needles. It is much more than simply giving. It is completing the most difficult part of surrender. The release of the last things which you previously thought gave you life, acceptance, status, or freedom. It does not even have to be as dire as the case of an addict (although it may feel equally dire). It can be the loving parent having their heart broken while their child screams and rolls around on the floor in sheer temper because they cannot do what they want. Yet the parent must also learn to release control to God and stay the course despite their impulse to just give in and avoid what could be a very embarrassing or heart tugging incident.
The hardest part of this verse is “Jesus sat … and beheld”. Essentially, Jesus is watching. When we are at the end of our rope or we feel that we are being asked to do something that is grossly unmerited, we usually do not want Jesus to be just watching. We want Him to be actively involved in resolving the situation. Still, that is part of the sting. We must complete the surrender of what is probably the most difficult thing in the world for us to let go of and we must let go of all of it, and Jesus watches us through that pain and struggle to complete that release even when it seems as though He were never there and no reward was to be gained from that release that we might overcome. “Jesus sat … and beheld”.
God’s word as far back as the Torah (Deuteronomy 26:12, 13) gives special provision and blessing for the widow, the fatherless, and those who obey God’s law in providing for them. Yet it is this widow that we see giving and we do not see anyone taking care of her before she leaves. Still, Jesus watches her give what is the very last of what she has. The completeness of her surrender is what is noteworthy for His disciples. It is not that she gave a higher percentage than the others who gave out of their abundance. It is that the others still had an abundance that they did not surrender. They managed how much they were to surrender and walked away with nothing useful to God while she simply surrendered all, despite the fact that specific provision was to be made for her, and she set the mark of how complete surrender must be for the very disciples that Jesus was to send out into all the world. The question is, while God is here and watching are you willing to turn over what is so difficult for you in the completeness of your surrender that He might give you life like you have never known it?
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7 KJV)