I wish you would let me cook for you
Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.
November 5, 2021, Words By: Jenna Smith, Image By: Unknown
“I wish you would let me cook for you.”
These were the words of a neighbour of ours, a widow and mother of 5 children. She had lost her husband about a month before the pandemic exploded in Montreal. We connected through the food bank at the ministry I directed, the only activity we were allowed to run in person.
I looked forward to our chats whenever she would come to pick up her fruit and veggie basket; it was some of the only contact either one of us had in those early days of lockdown that wasn’t restricted to zoom. We stood on opposite sides of the table, I the director and the giver, and she the widow, the impoverished.
Her lament on not being able to come in and cook with us, another restriction due to the pandemic, hurt on many levels. When she wasn’t allowed to give back, her sense of agency, her giftedness and her wholeness were diminished; she had been put in a position of scarcity.
As soon as we possibly could, we opened our kitchen again at the food bank, so that our neighbours could once more cook as equal members of the community.
One day, a member of the food bank provided a lunch of vegetable curry for the entire staff, made from the contents of his food basket, and spiced with fresh pepper that his mom had sent him from India. We salivated over this home-cooked meal, enjoying a rare moment of respite in those early, awful days of covid-lockdown. One of my colleagues nearly cried as she expressed her thanks for this act of care and generosity.
We gave, they received. Then they gave and we received. Those who appeared to be in places of scarcity showed up in abundance.
Through whose eyes do you see what is right in front of you?
In this week’s gospel passage, Jesus offers a new way of seeing both abundance and scarcity, in such a way that we, the audience, are invited to flip our preconceived notions of poverty, wealth, status and generosity on their heads.
How do we define abundance? How do we perceive scarcity?
In the first image, Jesus describes the scribes in classic terms of wealth and power. They have ornate clothes. They are greeted with distinction. They have places of honour at banquets. Everything points to a widely understood message: they have much.
This is contrasted with a second image: that of the widow. She gives a tiny offering at the temple because of another widely understood message: she has little.
On one end, a portrait of abundance. On the other, scarcity. And yet, Jesus invites the reader to see it otherwise. While society applauds and rewards these outward signs of opulence and status, Jesus looks at the scribes’ hearts and sees rivalry, characterizing these people of so-called importance in downright grotesque terms: “they devour widows’ houses.”
The widow, much like our neighbours did at the food bank, exercises a surprising act of agency and wholeness She gave “everything.”
This story contrasts a mindset of abundance and one of scarcity, presents a scathing image of economic disparity, a critique of power, and a reflection on what true generosity looks like. These are all invaluable lessons.
But it is also an invitation to see differently. And that matters because we act in accordance with the world we see.
Jesus sees the widow for who she really is: a person of abundance. And he acts accordingly. How do we see the Other?
Dwelling Among Us
How are we being invited to see people or situations with fresh eyes?
In your context, are there actions or systems that are removing agency or wholeness from those who we perceive as living in scarcity?