Without Calculating The Cost

In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus is observing how people of his time were making donations to the treasury. The score is clear—scribes: 0; widow: 1! But another layer of interpretation might be opened up besides considering who wins or who loses, who is miserly or who is generous, who is hypocritical or who is hon­est. This gospel is really a metaphor for true discipleship, a central theme in the Gospel of Mark. What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Jesus tells us when he contrasts the behavior of the self-important and insincere scribes with the action of a poor and seemingly insignificant widow.

Jesus teaches the crowds to beware of the hypocrisy of the scribes who know God’s word and law, yet seek places of honor and hurt those whom the law demands they protect—the widows. Jesus condemns them severely. “Calling his disciples to him­self,” he teaches them that they are not to do like the scribes. They are instead to do like the widow in the temple who gives all she has. True disciples give all they have, their whole livelihood—not goods, but themselves. The amount of what we have and give is really not important at all in the long run. What is important is how we regard and care for oth­ers; how we fulfill our responsibilities in the community; how we embrace the unlimited possibilities of deeper rela­tionships, new riches, everlasting Life.

Without calculating the cost to herself, the widow gave “all she had,” not out of her surplus. Disciples, too, give all they have without counting the cost, calculating self-gain, or seeking attention. The amazing thing about faithful discipleship is that God provides us with astonishing surplus: protection, talents, blessings. The “whole livelihood” dis­ciples give is their very selves; disciples give of what God has already given them. Ultimately, discipleship is about good stewardship of who we are.

We learn how to be good disciples from others who follow Jesus faithfully, who contribute to the good of all out of the surplus with which God has blessed them. The gospel holds up the poor widow as a model for the total self-giving of the true disciple. We need but look around us to find strong models for true discipleship. Now we are Jesus’ disciples, we are the new “scribes” called to authentically transmit and teach what Jesus reveals and fulfills. We are to live Gospel values. This is the primary way we teach. We teach, for example, when our loving is self-giving; when we care for the downtrodden; when we persist in reaching out to anyone in need even when we seemingly have little to give. Instead of serving self, we give self—our all. So, are we true disciples?