The Widow's Mite
[Mark 12:38-13:2; Luke 20:46-21:6]
The story of the widow’s mite has always inspired me. I, too, am one completely broken with so little to offer.
The scribes around her, with their riches, took no notice and even if they had, would not have understood or appreciated the sacrifice she gave there--of what it meant to lay her whole life on the altar.
Two mites is a small sacrifice. But when that’s all you have, I imagine it must be pretty difficult to give away. The sacrifice in itself contributed nothing to the temple, nothing to the kingdom. It provided no benefit, and would have gone unnoticed in the temple treasury. How could she have not felt, at least in part, that she was simply throwing away everything she had? I do not doubt it was a heart-wrenching experience to willingly give up something she felt she could not live without.
But there is more to the story. Read it.
It is not simply a story about giving your all. Jesus uses it to directly condemn the scribes “which devour widows’ houses” by compelling to give more than what was required of them. The law of the Old Testament and the gospel of the New, commanded that widows be cared for, brought in, nurtured and loved.
The temple was important and essential. But Jesus made it clear that “there shall not be left one stone upon another”. It was infinitely less important than the people it was made for.
The scribes justified themselves by the temple and by the law. They happily watched as someone they were commanded to help willingly gave away all. Instead, they should have been supporting her, caring for her. Under their care, she should never have been in a situation where she had nothing left to give.
So here is my parallel and I hope that it is clear:
Mine is a generation of gay men that are trying to stay in the Church and live the Gospel. Trying to give up more than they can.
They walk the lonely road. They willingly walk into Priesthood office’s unprepared to do what is asked of them. They humbly sit at disciplinary councils and submit to the judgement of men who cannot comprehend their sacrifice. They are told by their parents and families and friends that what they are being asked to do is “small” and “easy”. They plead in prayer for help, for support, for answers; constantly asking what more than they can give. They sit in Church meetings (as I did just last week) where instructors compare homosexuality to bestiality and child sacrifice: a sin “worthy of death”. They are without hope that their sacrifice, however great, can ever be enough. They are driven to depression, self-hate, suicide. They are men who cast all they are, all they have, all they hope and long for into the treasury without any hope of impact.
Like the widow, I have no doubt that their faith will be richly rewarded. But again, there is more to the story.
Doctrine, like the temple, is made for the benefit of man. Doctrine is not more important than people. Set it aside, for it is not for you to judge or condemn. Reach out your hands and hold them up. Love them. Care for them. Stop insisting they give more--because I assure you that even without your ‘encouragement’ they have already learned what it is like--and how awful it really is--to be willing to sacrifice all.
We are commanded to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light and yet I see so many of ‘them’ falling in exhaustion because they cannot take another step forward; carrying a load that is impossible to bear; broken hearts wounded further by hateful words and doctrinally-justified prejudice.
Instead of asking them to offer more, take their hand and offer them something. Be a savior instead of a scribe.