Summary: the widow gave all she had in faith
We just heard Jesus condemn the officials of the church for being pompous, strutting around like peacocks and preying on the poor and defenseless (Mark 12:38-44).
In Jesus’ time, a woman who was widowed was the lowest form of humanity. The men owned everything (even any money and property a woman had before she was married), so when she became a widow, she was left with absolutely NOTHING . . . except maybe her home if her husband’s brother did not want it. And a widow was not allowed to remarry unless her brotherin-law would marry her. She was left on her own – rejected by society with no means to support herself.
We are not told if the woman in the story was young or old, or had children. But for Jesus this really didn’t matter. He is not praising the willingness of the woman to give all she had, but rather condemning the officials for their greed and cruel behavior.
We are told that the priests and officials of the church not only thought they were better than anyone else, but that they also would take what little a widow had without giving it another thought. In another version of this Scripture, Jesus accuses them of ungodly behaving when:
They devour widows' houses (Mark 12:40)
The temple system was obviously corrupt. This is the second time that Jesus condemns the temple system – the other time was when the turned over all the money changers tables and threw everyone out. This meek and mild man who preached love was not going to let the poor, weak and homeless be taken advantage of.
So if the temple was so corrupt, why did the woman give her last coins? Scholar have had intense debates about this.
Let’s think a minute about our world. If you want to exist with any type of comfort, you learn fast that you have to ‘play the game dictated by others, no matter how corrupt. We all have probably had to do things to maintain a place in society that would rather not have. But we learned early we have to ‘play the game’. It isn’t fair and it isn’t right – but it is.
So we do what we have to do and, hopefully, help those who are trying to change the system. Part of what I do during the week is work with other organizations to hold the legislature’s feet to the fire when they are doing things that hurt others. We keep on plugging and have little successes that keep us going.
But what about those greedy, pompous people. If you listened to the Scripture, you heard Jesus say:
they’ll pay for it in the end (Mark 12:40)
So, we need to keep going and doing what is right and God will take care of those who abuse us. Thanks be to God!
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 11 Nov 2012