Today's gospel reading of the widow's mite reminds me of a film from 1987 called Babette's Feast. It takes place in remote village in Denmark in the 1800's. Two sisters live with their elderly father who is a minister. They are very beautiful women, and more than one suitor from the big city tries to marry them. But the would-be husbands are too worldly for their protective father.
One day a woman arrives at their door with a letter of reference from one of the suitors in France. Her name is Babette, and she is a refugee from the bloodshed of social turmoil going on in Paris. They agree to take her in as a housekeeper and cook. She works for them for 14 years, and her service inspires the people of the village who see that she is truly appreciates their hospitality.
One day Babette comes into some money from back home. It's more than enough for her to return to Paris and become a renowned chef. Before she leaves, she prepares a feast in honor of her friends who took her in when she had nothing. She orders exotic ingredients shipped in from France, things the people never heard of or think are too worldly for Christians to eat. She prepares a meal of turtle soup, caviar, and quail for a main course. She imports ingredients such as blue cheese, papaya, figs, grapes, pineapple, and pomegranate. Expensive wines are served. She buys the finest china and crystal to serve the meal. The people of village try to act unimpressed by the taste of the meal, but it's apparent that it is the most wonderful thing they've ever tasted.
After the meal, the sisters ask when she will be returning to France. Unfortunately, Babette has spent all of her money on this fabulous meal, and she stays on as the family housekeeper and cook. She gave all that she had.
Jesus saw all kinds of people at the temple. Important teachers and scribes with long flowing robes, and longer prayers that called attention to themselves. But when the people came up to put their offering in the treasury box, some where making a show of how much they threw in. It was a poor widow that caught Jesus' attention. Poor means she might have had to beg in the streets for what she needed. This woman only gave two copper mites, worth no more than a single penny, but like Babette, it was the greatest gift, because it was all she had to give.
What can we learn from this? Jesus gave us everything he had. Not money, but his very life. He gave everything for us. That's what we needed. Not a helping hand. Not a guide to reform our lives. Not a few pointers on how to live a better life. We needed a new life. That's what he offers us. Kill your life with its sin and evil desires, its love of things and self preservation. "Come, follow me, and die to all of that, and I will give you a new life that never ends."
Some might say she should have kept her two pennies for her own support, or half of it, because the gift was so small what good could it do? Remember when the woman poured the expensive perfume on Jesus, and Judas the thief said she should have sold it and given him the money? We always come up with reasons not to give. But the faith and trust of this woman's heart becomes the greatest gift in the eye of Jesus, bigger than that of the richest people in Jerusalem.
Poverty can be a great curse as well as a great blessing. It's a curse when it fills your heart with anxious care and worry, complaining, or leads to unbelief and dishonesty. Poverty is a blessing when it moves the poor man to cast himself on God who has promised to care for his children.
God gave all he had for us, His only Son. The Son gave all he had, his very life. It may not look like much in the course of history. One life. Thousands die every day. For God, his life was all he had. Jesus death is everything to believers. It makes the difference between life and death. It brings us forgiveness before God. It means we can live forever. We have peace and joy in our hearts because we are at peace with God.
Babette spent all her money on one meal because she was thankful for the people she worked for. What are you thankful for? Life, health, a job, a family, a place to live, good food to eat, clothes to wear? God gives these to us, and to everyone, even if they don't believe in Him. Christian learns to give thanks for such daily bread. God is the source of all good things, and for good things after life ends.
The Christian is a person who is thankful. One of the ways we give thanks is giving offerings. I don't think there's ever a service where we don't take an offering, except a funeral or wedding. There the people are giving their lives.
Usually the poor believer will give more in the offering, percentage wise, than the rich person. Perhaps because they know what it is to be without, and have learned that God takes care of them.
The people of Jerusalem all gave from what is over and above what they needed. There was a lot of money going into the pot that day. Jesus said the poor woman with her two pennies gave more than all of them. The poor widow woman gave from her poverty all she had. It was a sacrifice indeed. She placed herself completely in to the hands of God, who could and would provide for her far better than any two pennies, or a million times that amount could. Great was her faith!
Many people who have enough to live on give too little becaue they are afraid they will not have enogh for the future. They give from their lack of faith, and that robs their giving of it's true value, and the joy of giving. The widow's offering, though copper, was gold in the eyes of the Lord. How do your gifts look in his eye? Copy her faith, and you will be in her class, and the size of your gift will take care of itself.
Babette gave everything to put on her meal. The Lord gives us everything today in His Supper, for it is his own body and blood, that was given to restore us. Amen.
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