Often times Jesus and God are portrayed as one. While they truly are in each other, I more often see them as two sides of the same coin. Each plays a somewhat unique role in my life. Yet they really are one – as I come to know Jesus more I also come to know God more. As I draw closer to one, I draw closer to the other. So, how does one make the relationship more intimate?
One way is to enter into the stories of Jesus. Not just to read them but to enter in and become a part of the story. To see, to hear, to smell, to… For example, consider the story of the widow’s offering found at the end of Mark 13. Pretty simple story – Jesus and the disciples are sitting in the temple area, watching people put their offering into the temple treasury. The rich put in large amounts. A widow comes along and puts in two small coins. Jesus gathers the disciples close and tells them that she put in more than the others. he goes on to explain that the rich put in some out of much wealth but the widow put in all she had, every last cent. Only four verses. Just as the disciples did, I am sure you get Jesus’ point.
But take a minute and explore the story with me. Go a little deeper and be part of the story. So, here you are sitting there with Jesus. No one is talking. You are just sitting there watching people make their offering. Across the way is a Pharisee, arms folded across his chest, staring at the people as they make their deposits, mentally recording the ‘gift’. Person after person, in fine clothes all beautifully adorned walk by him and place their coins in the top of the box. You can hear the rattle, rattle, rattle as they drop onto the pile already in the box. They barely even slow down to put it in – except that last woman – took her a while to get all the coins through the slot. You see the smug looks as they exchange glances with the overseer – you can almost hear them say, “See how much I love God!” That lady pauses a second in front of the Pharisee – an extra wink included.
Then almost as if the breeze has shifted, you smell something different in the air. It is not fine perfumes or burning incense. It’s that smell of sweat and dirt, the one you carry with you after as long day’s work out in the sun. Next you hear the shuffling of feet dragging across the hard floor of the temple. It is not the click-clack of the fine footwear that has been passing the overseer. Then you see her – messy hair, clothes a little more than worn, sandals that you would barely call shoes. In your mind you begin to think, ‘Wow, who let her in…’ but then you snap back to the reality that you are sitting there with Jesus. In your mind you maybe even slap yourself across the cheek! You watch her as she slowly shuffles towards the treasury box. Glancing back at the Pharisee you can see him frowning as he too watches her. You can image what is running through his mind. As she nears the box, her pace slows down. It surprises you that she could go any slower. Others that have come to make their offering slow down and the line backs up a bit behind her – they are keeping a bit of distance. You notice her hand tightly clutching something, knuckles turning a little white. Then she comes to a halt in front of the box. She closes here eyes and you see her lips moving as she offers a prayer to God. She slowly extends her hand and lets go of its contents. You hear clink, clink as two little coins join the massive pile inside the box. She shuffles on and does not even look up at the overseer. You see him smirk and see his shoulders bounce a little as he chuckles at the meager offering.
Suddenly Jesus is quietly gathering the disciples around him. His quick, simple whispers reveal why she was moving so slowly, why she was clutching the coins so tightly, why she stopped to pray as she made her gift. As the circle breaks and you return to your perch across from the box, you have a whole new thinking concerning giving. You see each person as they approach the box differently now. Suddenly you know Jesus and God a little better than you did before. Who knew a poor woman in such simple attire could teach us so much about giving?