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Abundance Means Leftovers

[The following reflection is based on Jesus' observation, in the story of the widow's mite in Mark 12:41-44 (parallel Luke 21:1-4), that the religious leaders contribute "out of their abundance," while the widow gives all she has.]

If we look more closely at the Greek text of this story, the point of contrast between the widow and the rich is further heightened. The NRSV writes that the rich "have contributed out of their abundance." This Greek word for abundance, perisseouontos, is a derivative of the same word which is used in Matthew 14:20 in the story of the feeding of the five thousand. In Matthew, the word is translated as "leftovers" or "what remains."

Just as the disciples collected up twelve baskets full of leftovers after everyone was fed, so the rich gather up their gifts from what is leftover after their needs, and more likely their wants, have already been met. In contrast, this widow, says Evans "from her want has cast in all that she has—her whole life." Even though her two small coins were only worth 1/128th of a denarius, or about six minutes of an average daily wage, this gift itself is a priceless example of wholehearted trust in God in the face of a corrupt system.

In response to the widow's example of generosity, we, like the religious leaders of Jesus' time, receive the challenge to examine both the place from which we give and the church's system of giving. The religious leaders of Jesus' time gave from their "leftovers" and required the poor to give from their very livelihood. Do we, like these leaders, hypocritically ask for gifts that we are not willing to give ourselves? Do we focus on the miracles we can do for ourselves with the money we spend, rather than the miracles God can do for our neighbor with the money we give away? Does God ask only for our "leftovers" or the gift of the widow, our whole life? 

We, like the widow, are challenged to give our whole life to God—time, talents and treasure.

- Chick Lane
Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders 
Luther Seminary
in the "Stewardship for the 21st Century" e-newsletter, July 14, 2011