“He sat down opposite the treasury
and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.
Many rich people put in large sums.
A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.
Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them,
‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more
than all the other contributors to the treasury.
For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,
her whole livelihood.’”
“All they do is talk about money!” This is a common (not the most common, though) reason people stop going to church or stop being a part of a faith community. What I think they generally mean is, “Whenever they talk about money, all they do is ask for money!” Which I think is translated to, “All they want is my money!” I can imagine the priest, who has very little training in finances, faced with the stress of a major bill, debt, repair, or payroll crisis resorting to repeated guilt ridden appeals for more money. It happens. Nobody wants to be the leader who has to close a parish or or fail to sustain facilities because of a lack of money. It is a real pressure and I’m sure there are real experiences of this happening.
Stung by this criticism, however, I think we probably don’t really talk about money enough. I mean, we tend to only talk about money when we need to. Which gets back to the problem of only talking about money when we need it. Jesus didn’t ask anyone for money, except the Pharisees or Herodians who were trying to entrap him in a question about paying taxes. He asked for a coin and whose image was on the coin: Caesar’s, of course. We get one of Jesus’s famous sayings from that encounter, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mark 12:17). And on what is God’s image? We were created in God’s image and likeness. So we give ourselves. I doubt he kept that coin. Luke tells us, though, that Jesus did have some benefactors. He specifically mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, among others, “who provided for them out of their resources” (8:3). There were likely others and there was a common purse for their needs and for the poor.
Although we have no real examples of Jesus asking for money to sustain his ministry, Jesus did speak about money a lot: more than anything except the kingdom of God, more than heaven and hell combined, in about a quarter of his parables, and, if you include stewardship of the resources God has given us, in about 25 percent of his teaching overall. Why? “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matthew 6:21). Our time and our money can reveal what is important to us. They are an indication of where our hearts are.
We should probably ask for money less, but speak about money more. How do we cultivate gratitude to God for what we have? What does it mean to steward our resources instead of control them? To whom does our money really belong? What is the purpose for our financial success? Does our accumulation of money determine our worth as human beings? Do we owe anything to God? Does God have an opinion about how we spend our money? Are we generous if we give from our discretionary income? Do we even have to give? What in the heck is joyful giving? What is our true relationship with our finances? What principles should we follow with our investments? What do we leave behind? What is our purpose, our calling, and our mission?
The widow had little and gave out of her poverty. But, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (Luke 12:48). With what have we been entrusted?