Throughout the years that I was growing up, my dad had various nicknames for me. I came to realize that those names could be somewhat situational. For example, when we were discussing work, politics, religion (which for me were all the same thing!) or whatever, he would call me by my initials “R.J.” and at times when I was struggling, fearful or afraid of failing yet again, he would call me “Charlie Brown”. I was never quite sure as a kid, what he meant by that. And when I came to really understand who and what Charlie Brown was as a teenager, it became an irritant and a blessing all at the same time. After all, just how many times did Lucy coax Charlie Brown into trying to kick the football? And how many times did he try and fail? Every time she pulled that ball away! And why did Charlie Brown keep going back, over and over again? He goes back time after time because of the hope and possibility that this time might be different... that he would finally get his due and he would boot that ball over the moon. It is not in his nature to give up hope of to fail to return again.
What does this have to do with the widow and her mite? (Mark 12:38-44) Everything!
One needs to read this part of the Markan Gospel keeping in mind what Jesus has Jesus said about religion and religious people: There is no faith, no trust and no love in a self made person and in self reliance. Men and women of wealth were come to the Temple to in a sense, “Pay the Church”. They came and they gave our of their abundance, making a great show of how much they were giving by the noise of the coins they had purchased to pour into the Treasury. The Rich and powerful were pouring in the large amounts of coin in to the trumpets of the Treasury created quite a din as the coins made their way into the bank. The greater the gift, the greater the pride of the giver and the bigger show in giving. But this is not what God is looking for. As Jesus makes it clear, they gave out of their abundance and it has not really cost them anything. It has not pushed them into the hands of God but into a self reliance that God has blessed and so long as there is lots, there is no motivation to see what’s happening; with God and with others. What happens when their homeostasis shifts? What do they do then?
Jesus watch this all going on, then observed a widow who had bought two messily coins and dropped them in. They barely made a sound as they slid down the pipes. It was certainly not the great show that others had made but it was this widow that Jesus pointed out to the others has having gave more than anybody else. Everyone else had given out of their wealth, but she out of the little she had, gave all she had to give. Who of us, has done that? Who has run the race, kept the Faith and is ready to be poured out like a drink offering, offering all they you are and have? She came and offered what she has to give, and gave it to God as a sacrifice and as an act of worship, putting her life into God’s hands. How many of us are willing to do this?
Some of the scholars I have read say that she was giving for the last time and that she was going home to die. But I think that we make certain choices that do not guide us to a good conclusion. For example, we assume that she is old but we are not told that. Plus we assume that she is alone. This widow is not. Even if there was no family, God is with her and favours her mightily. And I think that this is a major mistake on our part – to think that God cannot see or hear and that God does not care.
I believe that this woman has learned how to put herself into the hands of God – to depend upon God. It is not something that any believer automatically does. It has to be learned so that it can be a habit and the generosity that comes from learning to give and to live sacrificially becomes a part of a person nature and character. We aren’t told but I think this is not the first time that she had done this – that she has come and given all that she has had to God, asking God to support and give to her. Choosing to give and to sacrifice so that others might live is what Jesus does and calls all who say that they believe in him to imitate him in his life, his death and his resurrection. We are called to participate in it all that – that we might be finally found in Jesus at the last Day.
So if I need to be a Charlie Brown, I accept that there are going to be things I am going to having keep trying and things I am going to have hope in because, for now it is beyond me and my reach. Why would I do this? Because it is a part of my witness in the world that God is at work in me and making me ready for him and the coming of his kingdom and the bringing of the eternity that we will spend with him. Will you come and be a Charlie Brown too?