Mark 12:38-44 | Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Lectionary Project—Part of an ongoing three year project of weekly posts based on the Gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary.
The Coins We Give Away
It’s not about the money. We try to make it so, to turn this passage into a lecture on giving generously, donating to churches and to charities, but it was never about the money.
Two copper coins, half pennies, that is what the poor woman put into the collection box. Jesus saw her do it. At least, it sounds like he saw her. It is possible that he just picked a woman and made up the story as a way to teach his followers, but that isn’t the plainest reading of the text. He saw her, Mark writes, putting two tiny coins into the collection, and Jesus knew that those coins were “all she had to live on.”
Was Jesus knowing about the coins a God thing? Secret knowledge? It may just be that he was paying attention to a poor woman, which is the sort of miracle we need to perform more often.
Either way, he knew what she had done. She gave everything. It wasn’t just money. It was everything she had left to keep her alive, her ‘living’ —the word is the one that gives us the term ‘bio’. All that kept her alive, that is what she gave.
The rich people gave large donations. That was good. The money kept the temple operating.
This woman threw herself out into the sea that is God, trusting she would be lifted by a different kind of whale than Jonah’s. That was good. Her gift caught the eye of Jesus and thrilled the heart of the Almighty.
“I lay down my life,” Jesus says in the Gospel of John. He doesn’t say that he dies, but that he lays down his life. Christianity is so full of people trying to explain the crucifixion, focusing on the death of the Messiah, that we miss the life. That is what Jesus gave—his life. He laid down all that he had and let the sea of humanity flood across him.
It is not the death of Jesus that saves us. It is the life. It is all that is God.