The Rev. Aaron Couch proposes here an argument that questions whether Jesus approves the widow’s gift of her two small coins. Read on…
Through Mark's narrative, the church listens in as Jesus teaches his disciples to reject the world's measures of value and importance. . . .
The ambitious scribes . . . use their piety to create favorable impressions, to secure positions of power, and to enrich themselves at the expense of those in need. Because their religiosity serves their own greed and ambition, Jesus declares that they certainly deserve God's condemnation.
While it is quite clear that Jesus disapproves of the greedy and self-serving behavior of the scribes, it is not equally clear that he approves of the widow's gift. Mark does not indicate whether Jesus' comments on the widow's gift were intended as an endorsement of her selflessness or as an example of how the temple system took advantage of the poor. Traditionally the widow's gift has been seen as a measure of her complete devotion. Jesus was heard to approve of her generosity. He also rejects the world's way of valuing, which would honor a large gift given easily from an even greater abundance, while sneering at a small gift given sacrificially. Instead Jesus indicates that it is the disposition of the giver's heart that matters, not the amount of the gift.
Alternately, it has also been suggested that Jesus here condemns the temple system, which benefited the wealthy by requiring large offerings from the poor. Interpreted this way, Jesus actually laments the widow's gift as a tragic sign of how completely she has been duped by the exploitative religious system. – Aaron Couch
1 Kings 17:8-16
Within its liturgical context, the theme of the generous widow in this reading lends support to the traditional interpretation of gospel text. Within the context of the deuteronomistic history, however, the text is more concerned to proclaim the faithfulness of God. . . .
When Elijah arrives at Zarephath, he finds the widow. . . . Although the situation is not promising, Elijah promises a miracle by the power of God. If the widow prepares a meal for the prophet, her food supply shall not be exhausted until the draught has ended. It is certainly no less a miracle that she trusts the prophet's word! The preacher and congregation together are invited to trust the Lord whose promise gives life. – Aaron Couch
Hebrews returns to the familiar theme of the superiority of Christ's priesthood. . . [but] the preacher must avoid any implication that denigrates the religious institutions of Israel. The author of Hebrews clearly understands the Jewish temple and priesthood as genuine gifts of God. The emphasis is instead on the surpassing greatness of God's gift in Christ. As the Son of God who uniquely reflects God's glory (1:2–3), Christ's atoning death is singularly powerful and is sufficient to deal with the sins of “many” (a Semitism meaning “all”). Believers are invited to live with confidence, knowing that beyond death there is no condemnation for sin. – Aaron Couch
Aaron Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.
Homily Service 39, no. 12 (2006): 25-34.