Armodoxy for Today: Value Relativity
The story of the “Widow’s Mite” which appears in the Gospels is fairly straight forward. In the Gospel of Mark we read, “Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two pennies. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.’” (12:41-44)
Much-much earlier than Margaret Mead’s research led to her teachings of Cultural Relativity, or Einstein’s calculations yielded him the Theories of Relativity, Jesus had made a case for value relativity. In this model, two-cents has a greater value than 10, 20 or 100 times that amount. The value of the offering, according to Jesus, is based on the person’s position and intention. “…For they all put in out of their abundance,” explained Jesus, “But she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”
Value relativity asks us to look beyond the intrinsic value of an object, call it monetary value, and look at the intentioned value of the object. This gets into muddy waters, because it is not ours to judge what a person’s intentions in their giving. Jesus may do so because of who He is, but not so with us, because our intentions are not always pure.
That being said, the other aspect of value relativity is the position of the person, in the case of the story she was a widow. In the times of Jesus, the legal and social status of women was determined by her husband. Widows could not possess property because their husband had died. After a husband’s death his widow could live in her father’s house if he was alive, or to an adult son if she had one.
In the Gospel of Luke, we read about Jesus passing through a city where a funeral is taking place. We read, “He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” (Luke 7:11-15) He stops the funeral and raises the dead son. Why did “He have compassion on her”? Because without her son, she would be indigent. She had lost her husband and now her only son.
While the story of the widow’s offering is a most important lesson in giving, and the sincerity in giving, for our purposes today, let us focus on value relativity. Knowing the background condition of those in pain, suffering, or in poverty, is essential to understanding our response to the pain of others. Throughout the New Testament, we see that the widows always receive special attention, it is because there is an understanding of their plight within that society and that day. Widows had no way to survive in that society without a man.
Armodoxy is built on the simple understanding that we approach one another with compassion and exercise compassion through our expressions of love. We refrain from judgment on others, rather we understand the background conditions that betray people to the evils they endure.
Let us pray, Lord, our God, give me the gift of understanding the pain and suffering of others. What may seem obvious on the outside may have no bearing on reality. Rather than judgement, may I opt for knowledge and understanding of the conditions that haunt my fellow brothers and sisters. And in understanding, may my heart be opened to express compassion to those in need. Help me, Lord. Amen.
Cover photo: Envato Elements