I Don’t Want To Be A Poor Widow

 
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Oscar Wilde said, “there’s only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”.

You have probably heard of the widow’s mites. Sadly, we focus on the pennies of the old lady, but forget the old lady, nameless and formless. We crucified those braggadocios Pharisees who loved to be popular, in the spotlight, let alone rich. Meanwhile Jesus directs His disciples’ eyes—yours and mine—to the poor widow. She went unseen by the crowds. She had nothing to brag about for many reasons. Her offering to the Lord even went unnoticed. Who needs a penny when a building project costs a million? How glad our churches are when a wealthy, healthy young family walks through our doors. For most churches that’s their target audience, right?

Yet our crucified Lord makes it clear that the widow’s worthless giving was far greater than a million dollars because she gave all she had. Jesus’ point isn’t about money at all. God doesn’t really need our money. That’s the joke. He also doesn’t need our hearts. He doesn’t even need the widow’s heart. Jesus wasn’t pointing out her extraordinary giving at all. He wasn’t telling us to give like her. He pointed out her peace, her confidence, her trust in the Lord’s providence! May we realize the same.

God provides. God has provided more than that widow even knew as the stranger watching her later laid down His life for her, for the world. Jesus gave all that He had so we may enjoy the riches of God’s grace—His forgiveness, His eternal life! He did it so that we may not care whether we have a couple pennies or a million dollars.

Many a preacher points these thing out, yet I fear many a preacher does not hear Christ’s condemnation. I surely didn’t when I was younger. The question both Mark and His savior are asking of you is: who do you want to be? The poor widow or the popular hero? Do you want to be nameless and unseen by the world?

Really?

To be honest, in an idiotic way, I want to be that scribe with the long flowing robes, the celebrity of the Missouri Synod, the guy who grew his church out of nothing, the silver tongue preacher. I want to be the recognized hero in Christendom, greeted by others at the conferences, sitting in the best seat and admired from afar at the podium. I want to be a seen, remembered, adored. I want to be a Pharisee. God have mercy.

Especially amidst the much-advertised crisis of American Christianity, it seems that many a pastor spends his time clamoring to make it big, to save the church, or at least get credit for such a salvation. Like the tower of Babel, we want to make a name for ourselves! We want to be noticed, greeted, admired!

I don’t want to be the poor widow unseen by the crowds.

Thank God I am. We all are, really. We preachers especially have nothing that is our own: our talents, our turns of phrases, our gift of gab, our passionate rhetoric. It’s all God’s. He doesn’t need us no matter how much we think we put in the offering plate, or in the beautiful deposit of the Church’s literature.

Lord save me from myself, that I may enjoy namelessness and anonymity, except for your name that has been given to me. Your name alone gives Life.

 

 

Rev. Joel Hess is the fortunate pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Cadillac, MI, where God’s reality pierces through our illusions by His Word, flesh and blood and gentle waters.  He is the author of many half written projects; a talented musician and artist.  His contributions to the Jagged Word deal with the intersection of theology, culture and the arts.



 
 
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