1 Kings 17, 10-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9, 24-28; Mark 12, 38-44
Two wealthy men a lawyer and a merchant joined a party that was going around the world. Their pastor asked them to take pictures of anything which they thought was unusual. In Korea, as they were traveling, they saw in a field a boy pulling a crude plow, while an old man held in his hands the handles. The lawyer was amused, and took a picture. Commenting to the guide, he said, “That is an unusual sight. I suppose they are very poor.” “Yes,” came the answer. “They are poor, that is the family of Chi Noui. When the church was being built in this area they were excited to give something to help it along, but they had no money so they sold their only ox and gave the money to the church. This spring they are taking turns pulling the plow themselves.” The lawyer said thoughtfully, “That must have been a real sacrifice” The guide said, “They did not call it that.” They thought it was fortunate they had an ox to sell.” The lawyer was real quiet after that event. When they reached home, the lawyer took the picture to the pastor. As he sat down in the pastor’s study he said forcefully, “I want to double my pledge to the church. And please give me some plow work to do. I have never known what sacrifice for the church meant. A converted Korean taught me. I am ashamed to say I have never yet given anything to my church that cost me anything.”
Sacrificial giving is linked to ’trust as seen ’in our first reading from Kings, trusting in God to provide, to take care of our needs is seen dramatically in this story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. This widow was giving to Elijah the small meal she had planned for herself and her son. Their only meal of the day. She even gives us a clue as to her physical welfare in that she says, she and her son are going to eat, then they will die. She was on her last bit of strength. She had fought for three years the hardships of this famine and drought, now her strength was failing, her will power to live was going fast. But a man of God comes to her and says,” please make me a cake out of the only bit of food you have left. And what does the widow do? She trusts in the saying of Elijah as he says, “The jar of meal shall not be spent the cruse of oil shall not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.”.
This widow trusted in the word of God to provide and that word came true for her. God continued to be with that widow as he promised, as they ate God provided.
In today’s gospel we see, “Jesus sat down opposite the treasury. And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins which make a penny…..Jesus said:’ truly I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living.”! The meaning of this story is very clear. Jesus is pointing up the true emphasis on giving, giving not the leftovers, or a little, bit so that a person won’t notice it, but giving from the point of sacrifice.
A few things we learn from this passage: 1) God is interested in our giving. He is very interested. God has given us so much in time, talents, and money and he wants to see what we do with what he has given us. He is interested in our giving because when it is done right, it is an act of worship. It also shows the extent of our generosity or our selfishness.
2) God is more interested in the attitudes and motives than he is in the gift itself. You really cannot give God anything because he owns it all but we can give in the sense of returning to God what he has given to us. God is interested in our sacrifice to him. God is not interested so much in what we give as he is in what we keep back for ourselves. Giving is not the only things we can sacrifice in. We can sacrifice in prayer, time, attendance, and service.
3) God does not expect all to give the same. God does not expect the poor and the rich to give the same. The woman in our text did not give as much as the others who came.
4) God praised her for the generous offering – vs.43 He praised her to her back but not to her face. She went away never knowing that the Savior had seen her deed, made the comment about it, and would put it in the Scriptures for all to see. God praises most people to their back while they are still here on earth.
Now comes the part of the homily which turns the attention to you and I. Can you relate to the two widows in these stories, and I don’t mean the fact they were widows. Can you relate to the one’s sacrificial giving and the other’s trust in God to provide the means for living? Where are you? Does this all seem so foreign to us that it is like a story out of a fairy tale book? Or have you experienced the joy of sacrificial giving, the extreme happiness of a deep love for God in which giving becomes a source of joy and not a duty?? Can you give and trust God completely to provide without thinking of getting it back or having regrets that you even gave?