The tight fist: can express anger, defiance, or fear of letting go. Sometimes, the latter can be because of a desire for control over circumstances one is familiar with, so fear of change. It also can be a fear of losing a sense of security or provision for one’s imagined future. This can stem from a persistent, or recent, history of lack.
Recently, the term “Food Insecurity” has been used more often, so as to become a colloquialism used even by the young. Whether this is because of supply chain problems due to war or disease prevention precautions; resultant job loss or reduction of hours due to the same; or difficulty purchasing proper food attributable to rising costs, food insecurity has become a more central concern for many who never really gave it a second thought years ago.
There is a story in the Bible, about a moment Jesus observed and commented upon, regarding a widow who was contributing to the work the church was doing to help those in need. Many people had gathered to contribute financially; the rich, in particular, involved themselves making a display of their doing so in order to be recognized as charitable and assuage their conscience for not being involved in the flow of others’ lives. It was an effort to stand aloof from community and still appear connected for influential gain. (Mark 12:38&39 and Luke 20:45&46)
The actual reason for this collection, as it is done today in churches all over the world, was an ongoing effort to gather, much like squirrels do, for the needs of those close at hand and even farther abroad. It was and is, so others’ lives may be provided for, so young may grow strong and safe, and their providers may experience the fulfillment of doing so for their young.
At that particular time, Jesus was standing by casually in the temple near the collection area and so happened to observe the many who gave large amounts to the collection. His purpose was not so much to make a negative observation about offering money but rather to comment on proportion, as a revealing thing about the condition of people’s hearts. A widow, a woman who no longer had provision nor means of supply, as her husband had died and she had no sons to take care for her, had placed “two mites” in the collection. (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 20:21:1-4) These were coins which were scaled, small coins called flakes or bits, cut-offs or leftover drops from smelting other coins.
Side note: At that time, all coins were made of important metals and so carried their value outright. This is unlike today, where our money only represents a share of gold stored in our country’s coffers. The value it corresponds to can be changed, simply by printing more money. This changes the fraction our money represents; hence the phrase “The strength of the dollar” communicates this.
So back to our story: The widow’s money was equal to about a farthing which was all her savings. It amounted, dollar-wise, to about a quarter of a Canadian penny. As she gave, Jesus was aware of the inner considerations of her heart. He was aware she had considered her own need, had considered the need of others and had considered God’s love for those who take care of others above themselves. In Christ’s all-encompassing estimation, one which considers the commodity of the heart as prized by God above all, He knew she had given a value far more than all the riches around.
The phrase, “Give till it hurts,” reminds me of her and of Christ’s sacrifice for us. I believe Jesus saw her as a sister with the same kind of heart as He. He did say of her, what she gave was of more value than all of these others together.
I am not sharing all this to stimulate guilt over tightening our fists as of late but to illustrate another response to leaner or more insecure times. If we look to lack, we will remain insecure; if we look to possibility and to the God in charge of that, we can give freely and ask unashamedly for God to supply our need, as He then can trust we will share what we receive with others who need. A flowing river gives life to all around, but stagnant water is a pool of eventual death. Which kind of water do you want to swim in?
In September, there will be another food drive asking for food, gift cards or financial contributions for Operation Scugog, so it can bless the lives of those in our community and eliminate insecurity around food and needed everyday items. Please remember then, the posture of your heart is reflected in your hand. A closed fist does not enable one to swim but an open hand does.