Decluttering is a growing lifestyle trend. Google the word and you'll get thousands of hits. If you need help decluttering there are even decluttering consultants who for a price will come to your home or office to help you declutter. Why the sudden emphasis on de-cluttering one's life, one's home, one's mind, and one's schedule? Is it simply a fad, or is there something else fueling this desire to simplify? Could it be that the speed with which our culture hurtles through life is simply becoming unmanageable for some? Is it possible that others are simply tired of being scattered and smothered? Most of my decluttering projects have failed miserably But, what if less really is more?
I think this last question gets to the heart of both the Old Testament and Gospel readings. Widows playkey roles in both readings. Widows in the days of the prophets were a marginalized group. Without the support of a husband, adult son, or extended family they were vulnerable. Poverty was often their lot. In fact, the widow at in the first reading was so desperate that she was out gathering firewood for a last supper when she met Elijah. She and her young son were on the brink of starvation. When comes Elijah tells her not to be afraid and asks for hospitality in the form of water and a small cake of bread. What does she have to lose?
The widow complies, giving out of her poverty. She gives all that is left and she is blessed. By giving all, she always HAS from that point forward.
The widow in Mark's gospel is putting all that she has in the temple treasury. Her act goes unnoticed by most, After all, two small coins is nothing compared to the lavish gifts of the rich and famous. But Jesus notices, and he takes full advantage of this teaching moment with his disciples. Little do they know that he is about to give all that he has for the sake of the world. The actions of both widows seem foolhardy, even crazy, to 21st century ears.
Why would a poor woman give everything she has and risk starvation? What's the point of giving when you have nothing left to give? Who among us would literally give everything we possess, putting it all in the hands of the church or giving it to a random stranger we meet in a mall parking lot? What kind of wise stewardship is that? Perhaps there's more to these stories than meets the eye, more than money, bread, and oil. Is Jesus is trying to teach his disciples about where to put their faith, their trust, and their absolute fidelity.
You know, Jesus spent a good deal of his precious time here on earth attempting to explain that his ways are not the ways of the world. Following his path is not the one that leads to power and might. Yet following Jesus is THE way to experience abundant life forever. Being a disciple is about much more than two coins in the collection or one last meal before you cash in the chips. Is what Jesus is getting at is the removal of anything that stands between us and his love. Perhaps it's the seeming security of the contents of our kitchen pantry or our earning power or even control over how we spend and give.
What would it look like for us as Christians to be the equivalent of these biblical widows? How can we experience utter and complete reliance on God for every breath we take? After all, everything we have is gift. In the final analysis, We don't really own anything. We are entrusted with the management of the goodness an abundance of the Creator. My suspicion is... that if we gather together as the Body of Christ and trust that the our jug of oil and jar of meal will not turn up empty. Then we will see and experience amazing things. God is good... and in God's economy less is indeed more... less reliance on self... yields a more abundant life... Our challenge as it was for the widows... Do we trust enough to try it?