Today’s reading is Mark 12:41-44:
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
Last week, I went with my a cappella group on tour to southern California. We served at a homeless shelter one night, and one of the men we were serving came up to me and asked where we were from. I told him, “We’re from Harvard University. We’re students there.” He looked me square in the eye and said, “Good for you.”
I was caught off guard. It immediately made me stop and think about the wide stretch between us, though we stood merely a few feet apart. I began to consider the vast differences between our situations. All I could muster was, “Thank you.” He stood there, having no material possessions, probably no job and no idea of his future. I, on the other hand, stood there, as a student at Harvard, receiving a world-class education, having all of the basic amenities required to live comfortably, and envisioning for myself endless opportunities.
At Harvard we’re told to look to the next best thing. We look to the future, to new opportunities, and new leadership positions. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but with those opportunities, we get the idea and are often told flat out that we’re special in some way. It is especially easy for us to put ourselves above those who don’t attend the same school. Christians should utterly reject this concept of self-superiority.
In the passage we read today, the rich people threw in their coins to the treasury, highlighting a particularly disgusting sense of vanity, and the widow in her humility put forward everything she had, even in her poverty.
An interesting point to make is the placement of these four short verses in the context of the gospel of Mark. It follows the warning against the teachers of the law. Jesus warns us against walking out into the marketplace with our expensive clothing and accessories, walking and speaking as though we have some sort of great authority. How interesting then that He should contrast this with the widow a few verses later who had nothing but these two coins to give.
Christians, like the widow, are called to humility. We are not called to think ourselves above others but to think of everything we have to give. It’s not just wealth, but it’s time, talents, gifts, abilities, and opportunities. Even in our humility, we must consider all of these things, and the way in which we can use them to advance God’s kingdom on earth.
But what does this all mean? Of course we’ve all heard before, “Oh, right, well, we’re not really the best,” or “We’re not really as great as we think we are.” It is easy to give that lip service to humility but much more difficult to figure out what it means to actually carry it out. Consider that in Genesis 1:27, it says that every human being is created in the image of God. Each and every one of us is a reflection of His image.
We should take the time to stop and think about what that means. Are we really humble? Not just in the ways we use our wealth and material possessions, but are we humble in the way we talk to others, in the way that we care about those that we know (or don’t know)? What about the way that we act concerned for them, and the way that we care for them? Are we humble in the way that we use our leadership abilities or how we use the opportunities presented to us?
We are called to give of ourselves just as the widow gave everything she had. Consider where you are standing, consider what you have been given, and strive to practice humility.
Scott Ely ’18 lives in Canaday Hall.