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Reform Magazine | October 23, 2017

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Her one penny

Her one penny

Reading Gospel passages with non-Christians, Symon Hill found they had insights that Christians often miss. Here they look at a story about money

Exploring Gospel passages with non-Christians who have not read them before, I find they often hear them differently from traditional Christian interpretations. Consider the account in Mark 12 where Jesus watches rich people putting lots of money into the Temple treasury, and a widow giving two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Jesus tells his disciples: “In truth I tell you, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they could spare, but she in her poverty has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.”

We tend to assume Jesus was holding her up as a moral example. The story is seen as an encouraging reflection on how everybody’s contribution matters. However, Jennifer, reading the story for the first time, told me: “I̕m worried about the widow. What is the money for? It feels like a televangelist gouging the faithful.” She suggested that Jesus should have encouraged the widow to keep the money.

“She gave as much as she possibly could,” said Elinor, who is a Liberal Jew. “But then is it good that she did? What does she have to live on now, if she’s given everything she had? And if everything she gave goes towards the upkeep of great buildings which will be destroyed, then is she going to go hungry for no good reason?”…

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This is an extract from the November 2015 edition of Reform.

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