The two stories described two social classes of the first century: The rich Scribes and the poor widow. The rich Scribes were the ruling class, and the poor were the serving class, who were victims of the ruling class. Both stories dealt with wealth, and the contrast of utilising wealth. The Scribes were not ordinary leaders, but leaders of the Temple. The poor widow was not only poor, but a widow. In the first century's society, the widow was the poorest of the poor. She was an individual, who represented the poor in her society. In every society, the poor always outnumbered the powerful and the rich. Today blue collar workers are the majority, while white collar workers are the minority.
The contrast between the ruling class, and the serving class was outstanding. Jesus denounced actions of the ruling class, telling his disciples, 'Beware of the Scribes', Mk 12,38 while He praised the good deed of the poor widow. The Scribes loved to be served. The Scribes loved to accumulate wealth, while the poor widow donated all she had. Following last week's teaching, we are certain, the poor widow loved God with all her heart, mind, soul and strength. She loved God without a limit. This poor widow enjoyed the joy of giving. She detached herself from wealth. True love knows no measure. Jesus told His disciples about the poor widow,
'She from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on'. Mk 12:44.
Jesus told His disciples, her love for God was not measured by the amount of wealth giving, but the generosity of her heart. Jesus judged her heart, a heart full of love for God. We can't read her mind. It seemed she believed what little she had, it was God Who gave it to her in the first place. She was right to give it to God. Giving all she had, she fully trusted in God's providence.
Because she gave all that she had to live on; many commentators agree that it was unwise on her part. I think this view is very narrow, because it is based only on the value of money. Today we understand wealth in a very broad sense. Wealth is more than money. It includes time, talent, knowledge, wisdom, health. All generate money. Consider internal wealth such as peace of mind, and a calm heart. They are invaluable. We don't know what sort of wealth she had, which could generate money. As a widow, she certainly was dire poor. She had to be able to support herself. We hope, she had a group of trusted friends, on whom she could rely in time of need. The poor widow was true to herself, her inner life. Not like some Scribes, who in public, presented untrue images of themselves.
The Temple was magnificent. The Jews loved to observe it. Jesus told them- Yes, indeed, the Temple was in its splendour, but one day it would be destroyed. Forty years later, the Temple fell to the level ground. Apart from the love we have for God and others, no matter how strong and how beautiful things of this world are, one day they cease to exist.
Our livelihood depends on job security, and good health. We hope our good job and good health are permanent. Let us remind one another that an accident can happen to a person at any time. The world economic system is not always as healthy as we would like it to be. It has been falling in and out of recession. The wisdom of investing all our lives into wealth alone is in question.
Our society judges the ruling class and the rich, as if their lives are worth more than the lives of the poor. Jesus told His disciples, and us, wealth didn't define the true value of a person, but true love does.