Luke 21:1 – 4
The widow in this passage is commonly used to illustrate the lesson that, in Jesus’ eyes, the greater the sacrifice, the greater the gift. I saw this type of sacrificial giving demonstrated in the way a congregation in rural Malawi cared for two sisters, orphaned and infected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
None of the families in their village could afford to care for the girls but a local pastor knew that the Church was called to care for vulnerable people. When he first approached his congregation about the girls, he was rebuffed by people who had difficulty understanding why they should care for orphaned children when they were struggling to care for their own families. Their arguments were sensible but the pastor insisted that the girls should be cared for by God’s people.
Eventually, the congregation found a solution: each Sunday, they would take up a collection for the girls’ care. The people rarely had money to spare but some could give a handful of rice or a banana to help feed the girls, a sliver of soap for washing or a piece of cloth to patch their clothes. There was always enough given to get the girls through another week. More importantly, the girls became a part of the community and had the gift of belonging until AIDS stole their young lives away.
Most North Americans give out of an excess of resources. We sometimes “sacrifice” something we desire but rarely, if ever, give away anything that we truly need to survive, like the widow with her two coins. Because of our wealth, though, many of us experience another type of poverty that makes it difficult to give: a lack of compassion. Because our lives are full of activities and possessions, compassion does not have a chance to take root and grow in our hearts.
This Lent, let’s emulate the widow and the congregation that cared for those sisters by giving to others out of our poverty, whether financial, spiritual, or emotional. What we have may seem like no more than the widow’s copper coins but if we give freely, God will multiply the gifts. God will meet us where we are, blessing us with everything we need to do the good works prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).