Sometimes when my mum visits, she leaves me one of her holiday magazines. ‘Home and Hearth’. ‘Ladies and Lunching’. ‘Kitchens and Catteries’. Top tips for cutting back the ivy. 101 uses for bicarbonate of soda. Beat the menopause. And features on The Woman Who Has It All.
I’d like to be one of these women. They find vaccines for diseases and start their own businesses. They storm across the West End stage and speak at power lunches.
I will never match their achievements, (which are genuinely impressive). But there’s a passage from Mark that reminds me of what I can do, and what matters in God’s kingdom. It’s a picture of how Jesus observes the temple offerings (Mark 12:41-44). And it’s a window onto what Jesus values (and what we do).
Picture the scene at the temple. Crowds thronging around to see who’s there and what’s in their wallets. A collective intake of breath as the big spenders drop their offerings (loudly) into the box. Ten denarii. Forty-nine. Four hundred and eighty. The gasps echoing with each coin.
These surely, are God’s big donors, the stars of Jerusalem’s best-selling, “Living and Giving (Bigly)”. When interviewed, they feign modesty. ‘What, this? Oh it’s the least I could do. I’m just honoured to be able to contribute in the midst of such a busy schedule — what with the manuscript launch, thriving camel exchange, and our triplets, (all married off in the same summer!)’. A collective intake of breath. Flashbulbs popping. Everyone gawping at the celebs… except for Jesus. He’s looking at a woman no-one else has noticed. A widow, whose pennies are laughable beside such wealth.
Here’s the lesson that can save your life!—Jesus is not comparing one offering to another. He’s comparing one offering to the offerer. When he saw the widow he didn’t view her as poor, he viewed her as prodigious. He wasn’t focused on her tiny capacity but on her great compassion. Where the other onlookers saw the sizeable gifts and declared ‘Now that was something.” Jesus saw the widow and proclaimed, “Now that was everything.”
If Jesus was editing an inspirational magazine, perhaps he’d choose different features. Not the women with great capacity but the ones who give what they’ve got. Does this sound familiar? Perhaps, like the widow, you have little wealth. Perhaps your health is limited; or your energy or your connections. Maybe the work you do is mundane and largely unseen. You’ll never make the headlines. But Jesus isn’t blinded by the flashbulbs. He sees. And He doesn’t look at our capacity, but our compassion. Jesus is not comparing us to others in the kingdom; which means we don’t need to compare ourselves either. But as we give from what we have, he says — to the angels now, and one day to all creation — “Look! She’s put in more than all the others!”
Whatever our situation, let’s look up instead of sideways. Nothing that we give for Jesus will ever be missed.