Widows take the lead in today’s scriptures. One is Naomi, the bereft mother-in-law of Ruth, who is herself a new widow. The widow Naomi may have lost her husband and both her sons, but she is far from powerless: she is clever – even shrewd – beyond belief! She engineers a new life for her daughter-in-law, and for herself. And in doing so, she gives Israel her greatest king and leader, David.
Another widow is seen by Jesus in the Temple, offering her gift – her “mite” – of two copper coins to God. Jesus admires this poor woman for giving all she had. Jesus drives home his point: “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.” (Matt 12)
[Just for good measure, yet another story from I Kings about the Widow of Zarephath is also an appointed reading for this day. Elijah comes to this poor widow who, with her son, is about to starve. At Elijah’s request, she shares her last morsel with Elijah, and discovers that her jar of meal never emptied, and her jug of oil never ran dry! In giving, she received much in return.]
These widows have almost nothing. How can they give? How can they trust God to walk with them into their future? My first impulse when I’m “running short” is to save, to hoard, to conserve what I have and try to make it last. There is some wisdom in that. But that is human wisdom, wisdom without God, without claiming the promises of God. It is so easy to fall into the trap of earthbound thinking, where life is a zero-sum game, it’s everybody for himself or herself, and I’d better look out for number one. I get that! And I struggle with that every day. But I do not want to live that way. I want to live according to God’s economy of abundance and sharing.
It comes down to trust in the end. Can we trust God that we can give today, and God will fill us full again tomorrow? That is the question when we consider our pledge, our annual giving to our church here at St. Dunstan’s. Can we trust God that we can give generously today, and God will walk with us tomorrow…and the days after that?
I can only speak from my own experience. Giving a tithe (10% of income) to God has never brought our family material want, or caused financial distress to us. Other financial decisions I’ve made have sometimes caused me grief, but not my pledge to the church. I’ve made bad investments and lost money. But our investment in the church has always returned many blessings to us, to our children, and, I believe, to the world. Our jar of meal has never emptied, and our jug of oil has never run dry.
I can only ask you to talk to God about your giving. Ask God what a bold level of generosity would be for you…what step you can take this year in your trustful giving for the church and for the world. You might be surprised at what becomes possible! JBM