The gospel story of “The Widow’s Mite” in Mark 12:41 says, “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the Temple treasury.” He noted: “The rich put in large amounts and the poor widow came and put in a fraction of a penny.”
The story is called “The Widow’s Mite” because a “mite” was a coin worth less than a penny. In truth it could have been called the “Widow’s Might.” This is a play on words because her faith reveals a rare form of strength. She gave her all, knowing she could depend on God to provide for her.
Much work left
Christ is still watching what we do with His treasury. Many of us voted on Nov. 6 mindful that God is watching what our President and the Congress are doing with His money, as the Jan. 1, 2013, “fiscal cliff” economic deadline approaches. Though the elections are over, our work is not.
God knows how much and from what motives we all give to His causes. Many are worried because, as an outcome of the elections, President Barack Obama was given a mandate for social and economic change. The Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery said the President won because he showed “the moral integrity needed to lead this country and God has given him a moral mandate.” I agree.
In the story of “The Widow’s Mite,” Christ does something a bit unusual. Instead of waiting for the disciples to come and question Him, Mark 12:43 says Christ calls the disciples to Him to discuss the widow’s donation. “All the others,” He said, “gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford — she gave her all.”
Christ looks at our hearts and what our views are in giving money, whether we do it as giving unto the Lord or just to be seen by men. It was interesting to see during the election one candidate running for the highest office in the land never wanted to, and did not ever fully reveal, how much he paid in taxes.
Many — not all — of the rich want the middle class to pay the largest share of the taxes and to allow them to amass more wealth, believing that will create jobs, low-wage jobs, of course, with no health or retirement benefits. The rich should know that, despite some of their anger about the president’s victory, God is still watching what they do with His treasury.
Many would criticize the poor widow for giving her all and also blame her for being poor but the truth is very few of us would do as she did and give our all. Yet Christ commends her for doing so. Therefore, I believe He expects us to do likewise.
Over the past 10 months, we heard a lot of talk about not leaving a $16 trillion debt on succeeding generations. As a writer about the spiritual and prayerful matters of today’s readers, I struggle to keep this column spiritually focused when so much is going on politically. A genuine pastor cannot teach the Word without relating it to current events. In the United Church of Christ, we believe “God is still speaking.”
So I feel compelled to say it is not just the President and Congress facing a “fiscal cliff;” we are all. The widow’s “might” was her knowledge and strength to do the right thing when it wasn’t easy. She knew in all affairs — business, family and church — she had to depend upon and trust God.
The president needs us to raise our voices, as we did at the ballot boxes, and support his fiscal policies. We must call for everybody to pay their fair share in taxes and we must be willing to accept cuts to social programs, too. It must be a balanced approach.
How to disagree
Though the president might slightly disagree — and Republicans vehemently disagree — it is my opinion that the Simpson-Bowles plan is a good starting point for congressional discussion.
This plan was devised by a bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform co-chaired by Alan Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton.
When it comes to paying debts, taxes and tithes, what do you think matters most to God? I believe the answer is the welfare of His people.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door United Church of Christ in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or firstname.lastname@example.org