The Rich Man’s Guilt
“for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, . . .” Mark 12:44
All of us stand on equal ground when it comes to giving. No gift is insignificant when given in love and devotion. The rich or the poor have no special advantage in God’s sight. But there is a tension here for us all. None of us can read the story of the widow’s mite without feeling shame.
Many preachers have used this story to beat the wealthy upper class into a guilt trip for being too rich and too successful. And many rich, in response, have sold everything and slept on concrete floors, believing this would appease God’s irritation of their wealth. But this is not how the text was intended to be used.
Different circumstances require different management, and there is a way of following the widow’s example without plunging our life into dire poverty. If the rich were to give away the whole estate and holdings and be reduced to insolvency and hard labor, this would be doing more than the poor widow; she did not make any such great change nor did she lower her condition.
The widow’s example and Jesus’ endorsement of her giving in no way implies Jesus is asking anyone to throw themselves out of the condition of life where God has placed them. We are not more spiritual because we are broke. Besides were one to divest all they had, they would not be able to provide for their family. Sloppy stewardship is not stewardship at all.
Those who are affluent or comfortable are called to respond to the text through practice of self-denial, just as the widow did, to allow the nails of Christ to be driven through unnecessary expenses, frivolous pleasures, and crucify the insatiable appetite for more. The poor widow trusted God for her own basic needs rather than make no offering at all. And the same is expected of every follower of Christ.
We are to trust God with what we’ve been given and to live without anxiety but in perfect dependence on God as our source. Be content rather than close-fisted and envious. Trusting in God is our best security and His friendship is our richest asset.
I choose to die to my wants and live in generosity.