Today’s gospel reading for many Christian churches is Mark 12:38-44. If you happened to attend a worship service, either on-line or in-person, the message for the day could have been on the unselfishness and generosity of the widow who gave all she had. This message may have then lead to the beginning of the stewardship campaign, in which the congregation is asked for their estimate of giving, their monetary pledge for the upcoming year.
And yet rather than praising the widow and using her as an example, this story may be interpreted quite differently. This perhaps radical thought could have been mentioned a podcast by Rev. Nadia Botz-Webber (www.nadiaboltz-weber.com and www.nadiaboltzwebber.com) or in something from Rev. Dawn Hutchings (www.pasterdawn.com) but it definitely is from the writings of Dr. John J Pilch, in THE CULTURAL WORLD OF JESUS. Whichever of the women whose podcast or writings I experienced, <I don’t remember.>, shared the same thought as did Pilch – giving too much to the temple is not a good thing. In fact, Pilch goes beyond and says that the widow who did this was acting “shamefully” because she deliberately worsened her status because “she has been taught ‘sacrificial giving’ by her religious leaders, and that is a pity.” (p.161-2)
If you were in a church today, you may have heard about tithing, giving 10%, a custom found in the early Jewish expectations. But consider, in those days the temple was the one and only place that could be considered a social agency. The Jewish people at that time had no non-profits; their taxes went to the Romans or whichever group had conquered them. This is not the case in the US or in many other places in the world today. There are many, many, many deserving non-profits who help those the Temple and early church were to help. Our taxes don’t go to our conquerors, but to our own government, and many people benefit from the programs our tax money provides. No matter what our donation to an individual church, many of us are probably donating more than 10% overall to good works, and therefore to God, than we know. Sadly some who don’t give 10% to their individual church may be shamed. This seems wrong.
I know many won’t agree with me, Dr. Pilch, Pastor Dawn, or Rev. Nadia, and perhaps others. Others will. And still others may begin to see things outside the box – or see the other side of the coin (pun intended!) I’m not saying don’t give. I’m not saying not to give 10% to your worship community if that feels right for you. I am saying give – and give what you can – and give to whatever agency or groups of agencies, including your worshipping community, that seem to be doing the most for people.
Doing this, your giving can be a joyful action rather than something done grudgingly because someone tells you what and how you should be sharing.
As we’re told in 2 Corinthians 9: “God loves a CHEERFUL giver!”
(thoughts from +Linda, not necessarily shared by all in CCOA)