Sunday favorites

Mark 12:41-44

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.’

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  • Mrs Grimble

    But I’ve always wondered – why did she put all her money into the treasury box and what was the money to be used for?
    This widow has always been used as an example and I’d like to hear her story – the real story.

  • friendly reader

    I’m up for midrash-ing it here, if you’ve got any inspiration.

  • There is some that I might have to say, but I lack the historical context.  Is hapax around?  She’s great at giving context.  Anyone else have some context?

  • AnonymousSam

    Clearly she’s just following the Romney tax code.

  • Mrs Grimble

    This presents an interesting take on the parable.
    Basically, the story is an illustration of how the rich gouge the poor.

  • veejayem

    Your link included an interesting debate about possible meanings of the parable. Thanks Mrs Grimble.

  • veejayem

    There’s an old Buddhist legend that slightly complements this parable. Priests travelled around the country, asking wealthy people to contribute gold which would be melted down and recast as a statue of the Buddha. In one house the priests came to, a little servant girl hearing the priests talking to her master, offered up her great treasure ~ a humble bronze coin, which the priests contemptuously spurned.

    The gold was collected and the statue was cast, but the Buddha had a stern frown on his golden face instead of the usual expression of benevolent wisdom. The statue was melted down and cast again, and again, but with the same result. The abbot consulted with his priests. Clearly the Buddha was displeased with their tribute, but why? Finally, a group of priests told him about the little girl and her rejected offering.

    The abbot himself went to the house, bowed to the little servant before all the household and received her bronze coin, loudly praising her generosity. The statue was cast once more, with the bronze coin added to the gold. The resulting image wore an expression of profound peace and joy.

  • hagsrus

    He’d got it all…

    Gautama wept.

  • Doesn’t Jesus know that the rich are to be commended for giving much more of their money and cuz they’re awesome and shit?

  • veejayem

    I think it’s the priests’ attitude in snubbing the servant girl which is considered wrong. After all they could have said something like, “Oh that’s so generous of you, Lord Buddha will surely remember you. But he would want you to keep that for yourself.” The servant had “lost face” through their arrogance.

  • I’ve never really thought of it that way before, Mrs Grimble! 

    Though I find it funny that the Xian Financial Counselor was fixated on the idea of “giving” and tithes and all that. What is it that makes these guys consider the Bible talks about family economics but not economic injustice?

  • I worked for the United Way for a while. I learned there that the poor and middle class gave the United Way much more money than the rich did. Not only proportional to their wealth — more, period. To such an extent that we didn’t bother much with trying to pry money from the rich, as it often ended up costing us more than they gave. Sticking a can in an auto plant was far more effective.

  • hagsrus

    Oh, I understand that.

  • MaryKaye

    This story hits on a problem I had with my Christian upbringing, which is that there are a lot of things which I think are genuinely virtues when they arise within an individual, but which it is wrong for someone else to ask for.  Humility is one of them.  I think that there are kinds of humility which are genuinely virtuous; but if you demand humility from someone else you end up with humiliation instead, and both the demander and the demandee are often harmed by the whole attempt.

    The kind of generosity the widow showed is another of these.  Perhaps she did good by offering up all she had.  But *asking* someone else to do that seems more evil than good to me.  Maybe the gods have standing to ask, but humans?  I don’t feel comfortable with it at all.

    If you are someone’s true friend, perhaps you will consider laying down your life for them.  If they are your true friend, they will not ask you to do so.

    That leaves the only message in this passage that I personally am comfortable with as “Don’t judge good acts by their monetary amount.”  That I could get behind.  The degree to which my university lionizes big donors over little ones bothers me, and it would seem even worse in a religious institution.  I like what _Real Change_ newspaper does, which is just to list all the donors and thank them, whether they gave $10 or $10K.


    If you are someone’s true friend, perhaps you will consider laying down your life for them.  If they are your true friend, they will not ask you
    to do so.

    One movie scene that (almost) never fails to get the intended reaction from me is where the hero is about to go into a probably-suicidal situation, and tries to talk their friends out of joining them. And their friends will have none of that.

    “You’d have to send us home tied up in a sack!” – Meriadoc Brandybuck, The Fellowship of the Ring (film)

  • The Guest Who Posts

    The computer game “Ultima V” deals with exactly this problem. The bad guy of the game is a tyrant who has corrupted the Virtues (compassion, sacrifice, valour etc.) by turning them into laws and prescribing harsh punishments for those citizens who fail to live up to them.

  • MaryKaye

    I remember playing the Ultima games with my much-younger brother and sister.  I don’t recall which game it was–IV? V?–but in one of them there are eight or so classes, and the Shepherd class seems to exist purely to be innocent and humble and virtuous.  My little sister promptly adopted the Shepherd party member (Katrine, maybe?) and played her as “innocent” in the sense of being unable to recognize evil.  “Why don’t we just *use* the Skull of Mondain?  I’m sure it would help.”  It really added a strange twist to the game.  “Why is that bad?  It sounds okay to me.  Why don’t we like this person?  They seem pretty nice, actually.”  Whole new layers of moral confusion promptly opened up.

    (“Played with” in the sense that these are single-player games but we were playing them by committee, as we often did:  one player on the controls, the other two improvising dialog and contributing back-seat driving.)