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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 12:38–44

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, 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.” (NRSV)

I am grateful for Jesus’ constant reminder that none of us (preachers included) have gotten the life of discipleship figured out. None of us comes to worship with pure motivations. It is often difficult for us to pray without some kind of agenda, even if we don’t want to acknowledge it. In our Reformed theological tradition, we call this total depravity. Dr. Shirley Guthrie defined total depravity this way: “There is nothing we do that is completely devoid of self-interest.”

I wonder, then, about the widow’s self-interest. What might cause her to be so generous? I ask that question thinking of all the widows with whom I have had the honor of ministering throughout the years. I have learned many lessons from them. One of those lessons was to never stand in their way of being generous. One woman in particular used to get irritated with me for not asking her to give more for God’s work in the church. “Pastor,” she would say, “this is a privilege to be able to give. It feels good to be able to contribute what I can and to watch as my little offering gets added to all of the others and grows in ways I could not do by myself.”

So there you go. If the widow of Jesus’ day was anything like the widow who challenged me, her self-interest might just be that she felt good when she gave what she could. She knew she was making a difference in someone else’s life, and very few other things can mean as much as that. Perhaps sometimes a little self-interest, when used on behalf of others, is not so bad.

God, I thank you for all of the unexpected people who regularly teach me what it means to be faithful. I thank you for people like this widow who remind me of the joy found in giving. Help me to walk through my life this day with my fists unclenched, giving what I can and opening myself to the transformation that being generous will make in my life. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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