There was nothing left. She put all the money she had into the hands of the priests. What they would do with it she had no idea but she obediently gave it back to God. What compelled her to give it all? I would imagine that her desperate financial situation would be motive enough to hold back but instead she gave it all to God. There is nothing in this gospel story that gives us any indication of why she gave her entire livelihood as a contribution.
Is it just a story used by God to teach us something about our inability to let go of the things we depend on? Is God trying to make a point that will open our eyes to our need to surrender more and more of our own independence and learn to rely on him?
The woman by putting all her resources into the temple treasury was not promised anything for her gift. Yet she places her “entire livelihood” into the treasury without any promises of any kind of blessing in return. What would she use to purchase food, pay her bills, buy necessary clothing, buy the ephah of flour required to fulfill the demands of the sin offering. What would she do now that she had no resources at all?
Who in their right mind would give up the last of their money or the last of their food? Who in their right mind would surrender control of any aspect of their lives to someone who does not seem to care about what they are going through at that moment?
The widow encountering Elijah also is without any resources. She has had a hard time since her husband died and is now at the end of money, food or any kind of help from friends or neighbors. She is preparing her last meal and yet she gave Elijah something to eat before eating herself. Why would she believe Elijah’s promise that neither the flour nor the oil would run out? Was her situation so desperate that she just did not care if a single cake was given to Elijah instead keeping it for herself or her son? Perhaps she was hopeful that the prophet could work a miracle. I believe there is something more at work in both of these stories and it has to do with how much do we believe in God’s promises.
Perhaps how we act on our own faith is precisely the point God wants us to consider. We must have a belief in God that moves us to totally trusting that God will provide what we need instead of relying on ourselves. This is a point God has been trying to make us understand since Adam and Eve failed to trust. They believed the lie that doing it on their own was better than doing it God’s way. We see this same issue of trust in Abraham and the slave girl when Sarah did not have any children. We see it in Jonah fleeing rather than delivering God’s word to Nineveh. We also see trust rewarded in story after story of healing in the bible. Peter come step out of the boat and walk on the water to me. Do you believe he asks; yes Lord I believe, then get up and walk.
So here is a spiritual truth that I have learned during the times I was bold enough to totally believe and trust God; a little in the hands of God is so much more than we can imagine. Give me your flour and oil and you will live he said to the widow. She believed and she lived and saw not only oil and flour multiplied but later she saw her son raised from the dead by Elijah. If we can just surrender for one moment we would see the glory of God revealed in miraculous ways and we would never go back to self-reliance.
Martha and Mary cried to him if you had only been here our brother would not have died. They had a strong faith in him but at that moment their faith was nonexistent. Do you remember the words of Jesus to those two sisters? He said, “…did I not say to you that if you believe you would see the glory of God.”
I have come to understand at the heart of these two stories of the widows is God saying to us “how much do you believe.” This week you and I are challenged to consider how our belief in God’s love for us is reflected in how much we are willing to give to God. Are we all in or do we hold back.
Do we want to see the glory of God each and every day?
Can we give our entire livelihood to God and trust we will be ok?
Can we give up dependence on our own piety and instead give God our hearts?
Can we stop trying to gain wisdom and understanding in order to believe? Instead can we allow the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to the depth of God’s love and open our minds to understand the wealth of his glorious heritage that is ours as sons and daughters?
Have we not learned the lessons of the loaves and fishes? What do you have he asks them? Not much Lord we have just a little. What must you and I place in the hands of the Lord in order to see the glory of God in our life?