Tuesday, November 10, 2015
A worthless coin teaches a priceless lesson on faith
Those who think Scripture is unfriendly to women have not read much of it. You would have to be blind not to see the special attention the Bible holds for women of faith and not just any women but those who have the least to offer the Lord and are least in the eyes of the world – the widows!
Today the widow at Zarepheth gave of her meager supplies to Elijah is placed in the context of the widow without name who her all in the form of the mite for the temple offering. But don’t forget Naomi and Ruth or Anna who blessed the baby Jesus or Paul telling Timothy to honor widows or James commending the Church to visit them.
No widow finds blessing in her loss. There is only sorrow, pain, loneliness, and a vulnerability that comes from such loss. Yet God knows their hearts and holds these widows up in their need as examples of faith and trust for all of us to emulate.
Though the widows of today too often lose much they can never recover, they certainly have more protections than the widow our Lord addressed. Social Security did not offset some of her loss and society did not rush to her aid. She had only God, no one but the Lord. She lost her income and her financial security when she lost her husband. She was alone to care for herself and her children. She lost her protector and her companion. She lost her legal status and her identity. She became the object of pity and how many women looked at her wondering “there but for the grace of God go I...” But these losses only sharpened the focus for what this widow did have – she had the grace and mercy of God. She had the Lord’s protection and care. Her loss could have been the occasion for a loss of faith but instead it honed her trust in what the Lord had given her -- His Word and promise.
Now anyone would have understood if this widow had become bitter, cursing God for her loss, and living jealous of every little resource or treasure that came her way. But she did not become bitter and she did not curse God. Instead she became generous. Anyone would have understood if she had walked by the offering box and given nothing -- because she had nothing and yet she gave everything without fear and without worry. What a faith!
Elijah found a home with the widow who was ready to consume what was left of her resources with her son and die. Yet she shared what little she had with a stranger and God’s mercy supplied all they needed. Ruth and Naomi tell not a story of anger or bitterness but of affection and devotion and support that we stand in awe of even today. Though Anna had come to the Temple day in and day out awaiting God's slow promise, she did not curse God for His slowness but waited in faith for the Son of God who would become her Savior. What faith is this!
Jesus watched this widow who gave her worthless coin that ended up being everything she had. What the Lord saw was not the smallness of her offering but the greatness of her faith -- this was a picture of what He Himself would fulfill in His self-emptying upon the cross for you and for me. This nameless widow became the example of faithfulness and generosity who continues to shame us who are rich in comparison but fearful and stingy in giving. It is not an issue of resources but of faith.
Now we would all agree, it is easy to be hospitable when you have a house and much to share. It is easy to be generous when you have many resources to count on. It is easy to be giving when you have much to fall back upon. But what about when you have nothing? Giving love when you are already loved is easy, says our Lord in Luke's Gospel. Giving food when your belly is full is easy. Giving friendship when you have many friends is easy. Giving money when you have a full wallet is easy. But where is faith in this? When we begin with an abundance, none of this requires faith. But when we have nothing, giving anything is an act of faith and an expression of confidence in God’s mercy. And this giving is Christ-like, who gave us His all into suffering and death that we unworthy and undeserving people might be forgiven and live forevermore.
None of us are like the widow in the story. Even the poorest among us is rich in comparison. But this is not about how much or how little you have. It is about the character of your faith. Some think we need people rich in resources and money to support this church and fund the mission. But that is not what we need. We need people of faith. We need people of faith who give not because they have much but who give because they trust much. We need people who give not leftovers from of their abundance but people of faith who give first fruits even from their poverty. We need people of faith who stand before the cross in gratitude and thanksgiving, who trust all things to Christ's death and resurrection, who live in confidence of God's merciful and providential care over the daily life, and who, by the aid of the Spirit, seek to live in this faith and fear all their days.
Of course all of this is foolishness to the world but it is the wisdom of faith that saves us wretched sinners from our sins and death. It is the wisdom of faith through which God has chosen to work to provide for those in our care, our neighbor in need, the poor in their want, and the Church whom God has established. We learn this wisdom of faith learn only from the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes to see Christ who cast aside His riches to become poor for us even to death that we might be rich. You might think the work of the kingdom depends upon people with deep pockets but it has always and will always be supported with people in whatever circumstance who have this widow's faith and trust in the Lord without fear. God give us such a trusting and giving heart. Amen.