Giving her all

– 34th Week in Ordinary Time –

This poor widow has put in more than all of them … [Luke 21:3]

Prior to the text we reflect upon today, we hear elsewhere in Luke’s Gospel how scathing Jesus is regarding those who ‘swallow up’ the property of widows, who have been left without any male protection and legal persona since the death of their husbands.  These vulnerable women are at the mercy of the Law and of those who use it to defraud.  Jesus condemns this use of religion for ulterior purposes.  The Scribes were theologians, lawyers and experts in the Torah, but were also educated people, trained to read and write.  They were engaged in the business of drawing up documents and legal contracts for vulnerable people, a practice that could be very lucrative for the unscrupulous.  Because of their outward piety, the vulnerable would place their trust and their property into their hands.

In this passage we read that Jesus ‘looks up’ which suggests that he is teaching in the Temple at the time, but on observing the activity around the offering chests, he calls his disciples to take note of what is taking place, and seizes this ‘teachable moment’ to instruct them.  We are told that this woman gives ‘all she has’ – this meagre offering of two small copper coins, all that stands between her and destitution. Yet she gives, for the Law states that holiness equates to giving for the upkeep of the Temple.  In this case, it seems that the Law does not serve people, but rather that people serve the Law.  The widow, the orphan and the stranger in the greatest need of protection and fair play because of their vulnerability, yet some ‘religious’ people seem to be doing the very opposite.

This story invites us to reflect on the nature of our giving and our responsibility to protect the vulnerable, we who have been given so much.  Jesus reminds us that God looks upon the inward character rather than the outward action.  The value of the woman’s gift was measured not by quantity but rather by its quality.  What was the fate of the woman after she had given all?  We can only surmise, but the story of her giving has challenged and inspired the followers of Jesus for two thousand years and will continue to do so for future generations.  Her actions remind us that ‘blessed are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of heaven is theirs’. (Matthew 5:3).  What does that mean for those of us who live in middle-class comfort and relative security?

Gracious God, remind us to be generous and prepared to give our all for the vulnerable in our world.

By Carole Danby

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