4 For all these people have put in gifts out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”
Today is my grandmother’s death anniversary. Although she’s been in heaven for 27 years, I can still hear her voice as she recalled memories of her youth. When she was 10 years old, World War 1 was ending, and the Spanish flu pandemic was beginning to wreak economic and social havoc on the world. Her mother was of the First Nations Choctaw Tribe in Meridian, Mississippi, and was a practicing medicine woman. She took my grandmother, and what little means they had, to make non-discriminatory rounds with eggs and milk to feed their neighbors, and herbal concoctions to nurse the sick back to health. At poverty level, they certainly didn’t have extra money or clothing, but they were willing to share resources from their back yard and a wealth of medical knowledge.
In our verse today, Jesus was observing His surroundings at the temple and noticed a widow giving all the money she had to live on. I can only imagine the compassion He felt for her, in contrast to His recent verbal sparring match with the religious leaders. I doubt the widow was giving to be noticed, appreciated, or elevated among the rich. Being a woman, a widow, and poverty stricken, I can only imagine that her expectation was to remain unnoticed. Especially if the scribes were circling her home, with potential plans to take it away from her—if it hadn’t already been taken away (Luke 20:47)—she probably was thinking, “Get in, give my worship to God, and get out before anyone sees me.”
Scripture never says that Jesus engaged her. She may never have known He saw her and made an example of her. She certainly couldn’t have known we would be reading about her centuries later as a testament of giving everything you have to God. Although her socioeconomic standing was overlooked and discriminated against, even in the religious temple, Jesus saw her. He looked on her heart and saw beauty in her sacrifice. He did not see the same in those who gave with pomp and circumstance, in their pride and out of their abundance.
I have to imagine that Jesus was using the widow as an example of His forthcoming sacrifice. Jesus would soon give all He had to give us the gift of salvation. He would not do it out of vain conceit or to be seen by society for the purpose of climbing the social ladder. He was going to sacrifice all He had out of His love for you and me.
My grandmother did not tell her stories for personal recognition. After all, she was being required to help her mother do something unlovely and risky, not the first choice of a 10-year-old during a pandemic. Rather, she would tell the stories to teach this selfish child a lesson in being faithful to God, for the love of others. She demonstrated how to be the hands and feet of Jesus and what it meant to sacrifice in order to love our neighbors unconditionally, whether they are rich or poor, Christian or non-Christian. She taught me that Jesus will always look, not at the amount of the gift, but at the heart of the giver.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What have you given lately that is a pure gift, straight from the heart, to honor God and nothing else?
- How did you feel when you gave something for show? How long did the glory last?
- How was it different when you gave something out of sacrifice rather than out of abundance?
Pray for Hope for the World missions partner Men of Valor, as they seek to disciple men in prison and provide training and support for restoration to family and community when they are released.