Pastor Hugh's Monthly Meditation

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“[Jesus] sat down opposite the [Temple] treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’”
Mark 12:41-44

Click on image to see a larger view of Gustave Doré's, The Widow's Mite, in a separate window.

Gustave Doré, a French-Alsacian illustrator of the mid-nineteenth century was most famous for his illustrations of biblical stories. His portrayal of “The Widow’s Mite,” first published in 1866, depicts the poor widow from Mark 12 as she offers her two copper coins to the Temple treasury. Behind her stand two wealthy benefactors dressed in their finery who seem put out by this woman and her simple gesture. Behind them, observing all this, stands Jesus.

While the wealthy put in vast sums of money into the treasury, this poor widow put in a seemingly insignificant amount—two leptas, coins that together were worth only a quadrans or about one sixty-fourth of a denarius. A denarius was the equivalent of an average daily wage of a laborer. Any way we do the math, her gift would the equivalent of today tossing in a dollar or two into the offering plate.

Given the seemingly insignificant value of her gift, why would Jesus single her out as deserving praise in comparison to the wealthy and their “large sums?” The answer: because when she gave, she gave “all she had to live on.” Another way to translate this is “she put in her entire life.”

On October 22 the people of St. Paul’s will gather to celebrate Stewardship Sunday. (Yes, it is earlier this year than normal.) Stewardship Sunday is sadly often seen as that time when we, the Pastor and Council, ask you to help us meet a proposed budget through your pledges of financial support—kind of like a public TV fundraiser. This would be an unfortunate misunderstanding—a complete watering down of the importance of the ministry, or better, the way of life of stewardship.

The goal of true stewardship, is to teach us to give. What we are called to give is not a mere token of our wealth, but the entirety of our lives and livelihood. And while some of this is sure to end up in the offering plate on a Sunday morning, the rest of it—our selves, time and possessions—ends up bringing hope and healing wherever our journey takes us. For when we give completely of our selves to God, holding nothing back, we become conduits, if you will, of God’s transforming love. By holding nothing back from God, we are able to become, as St. Francis of Assisi prayed it, “instruments of thy peace.”

Hugh R. B. Haffenreffer

October 2006

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