Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
- Mark 12:41-44
May I tell a tale today? Could it be about a real person, actually a few people? Maybe. And with a few changed details, it could be about anyone.
Let’s start with a young family man. Okay, he might be approaching middle age, but that definition seems a bit strange these days. The numbers for that age keep changing. He is a schoolteacher in the Deep South. He has a disorder called ‘conversion disorder.’ His symptoms range widely, but in severe seizures, he can be left paralyzed for a short period of time, and the recovery can take a long time before all body functions return. As long as he can use the methods that he has been taught to relieve stress, he is fine.
Only one problem, with the new school year, changes were made to the schedule, changes that violated the school’s policies to help the teachers. He was not granted a lunch period. His ‘planning period’ became the last period of the day, but due to being on bus duty (seeing that the children got on the buses safely), he never got to plan during his planning period. And as for bathroom breaks, he never got any. The next class filed into his room as the previous class was leaving – never having a moment for personal hygiene during the workday.
He was still doing fine, but then he had a seizure in the presence of the district staff. He was sent to a clinic outside the school’s medical system for help. This meant he had to pay out-of-network full price for help with a problem caused by the school system, at least a violation of school policy. Oh, and while getting this therapy, he is not getting paid. Sure, the reasons for his flare up have been filed, but if he wants to get some of his expenses or salary reimbursed, he’ll have to file a lawsuit. Then, there is the thought of the up-coming holidays. That complicates whether he can return at the end of the therapy or wait until next semester, two months from now. And he is still employed, so he cannot file for unemployment. All of this while his wages are considered on the borderline of poverty wages, even with a college degree and several years of experience. That is if he can get paid.
His parents, who are retired on a meager fixed income and practically no money in the bank, gave what they can to their son. Then, the father had a dream. In the dream, he and his wife were wandering in a forest. The man had a map and each time they reached a fork in the trail, the map said to go one way, but ‘faith’ said to go the other. The ‘faith’ path that they took led to struggles, but the couple stuck to their ‘faith’ journey, instead of the journey that was easier under foot. The following night, the man’s wife had a dream. It was graphic and filthy (not sinful – just dirty, earthy). She researched the meaning of the symbols in the dream, and she found that one of the interpretations was to be in a situation where there was no winning solution, and that she’d have to take the only option available, even though it wasn’t comfortable or easy.
So, the retired people with practically no money in the bank plan to support their son even further, with everything, down to the last two copper coins.
Jesus tells a story in the Scripture above, having seen the rich people and the poor widow giving their offering to God. He doesn’t tell the widow’s back story. Could she have a son who just lost his job or is on temporary unpaid leave? Could she have given everything except for the two copper coins so that her grandchildren could eat and have a Christmas with at least one or two small gifts under the tree? (Of course, they didn’t celebrate Christmas back then, but you get my meaning, I hope.)
One hundred out of one hundred financial advisors would say to not give a penny. You already are so bad off you should have never retired. But the retired couple listen to God and not an earthly financial advisor. God has promised, even by audible words, “I will take care of you.” They trust God, not a simplistic trust, for there is nothing simple about it.
This ends my fictional story. Does it sound like one that you have heard before? The circumstances change, but it happens all the time. Just last week, I wrote about the homelessness in America, and the world for that matter. But there is that other group of people who are barely holding on to their roof over their heads, their food on their table, and their sanity trying to keep a family going in these hard times. They need your prayers, and your helping hands, also.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.