“Come. I will show you Air Jordan.”
Jimmy backed into position, already smirking triumphantly. He momentarily glanced at his hope before sprinting and springing forth right before the three-point line, feet fluttering. You know, much like you do mid-air following the plunge off of the high dive.
The ceremoniously dramatic launching of the ball amounted to, um, not three points. It lost momentum half-way to the goal and then dolefully bounced like a check. Much to our giddy delight.
Two of the gospels, Mark and Luke, both give an account of Jesus appreciating a widow’s charity to the temple. Mark’s version indicates that Jesus sets himself across the way to people-watch deliberately. While they are dropping money in like they just got paid Friday night, He’s there observing them like it’s a Saturday afternoon skit at the local amphitheater.(Which is hilarious to me because diligent eye-contact-avoidance with others putting in their offering to circumvent suspicion and uneasiness is a discipline of mine. When the plate or bag looms near, my eyes prudently skirt it as I hastily and furtively slip in some money and then endeavor to pass it like a hot potato.)
So yeah, He’s there—an onlooker from the sidelines. Maybe it was a culturally common practice for spectators to gather during offerings at the temple? Maybe not. I wouldn’t be surprised either way. But I know He’s not your typical audience, enthralled with the forefront fineries of the company’s acting. Instead, He is taken with the backdrop. He is seeing what the others won’t. On the peripheries of the temple Himself, He notices someone who likely lived on the peripheries—a lady (even possibly a young one?) on the peripheries of economic and social status. Whereas God’s law established provision for widows regarding their land and means, Israel notoriously withheld this dignity which, in turn, created space for destitution.
I wonder things like, “Was she embarrassed?” “Did she first wait in the shadows while rallying the resolve to walk across the court yard to make her deposit?” “Did she count each measured step with a quickening pulse?”
A move like that requires courage.
I am noticing Mark doesn’t mention anything about money envelopes. And apparently the temple offering place wasn’t exactly a private kiosk. And, just like contemporary times, your supposed worth in society was contingent upon your wallet size.
Plus, I am not so certain she was receiving hefty support or relief from her late husband’s life insurance policy.
The Bible details that she gave two small mites or pence or copper coins. Two: a symbol, from a Biblical standpoint, of comparison and contrast. Encircled by multitudes of people who flippantly tossed in money of little consequence to them, she knew the full weight of what she relinquished. Of the two parties in this occurrence, one epitomized a counterfeit faith but the other exemplified a genuine one. Not because there is a price tag on faith but because she bequeathed what would have been used for her (and her children’s?) basic sustenance.
My friend and current roommate, Kinley Cash (real name), is a photojournalist at MITS for three months. She tends to capture fragments of bars in several of her beautiful takes. In Kenya, that’s easy to do because bars are ubiquitous, secured onto every window and door of most any stable house, school, or business. Not to mention, the prerequisite gates before entering the premises.
Hence, bars became a motif in her photos. To her, they represent sturdiness and safety, two essentials of well-being, of which kids who have lived on the streets (societal peripheries) are often robbed, I realized.
Kinley’s perspective comes from a life spent in East Africa. Her parents are missionaries in Uganda so she is accustomed to the familiarity of these bars. I enjoy her perspective because those same bars can appear daunting and confining to foreigners. Sometimes it takes the vantage point of an insider to understand the worth of something often overlooked.
One might accurately term Jimmy’s shot as a “brick.” It was certainly not “money” or “bank.” Oh, but He was all in, fully invested. Sure, Jordan’s a millionaire but Jimmy’s not miserly of heart.
The widow’s sacrificial gift was not categorically a valuable contribution but it was treasured by the Man who shares ownership of Heaven and Earth. The broke and broken Redeemer cherished her meaningful generosity despite her meager means.
The kids on the streets who are offered to a place at MITS are scoring a wonderful deal. The opportunity they are being afforded when invited to join MITS is priceless and brilliantly beneficial for them as well as their communities.
Yet, their personal investment, their two mites in the judgment of the world, is remarkably noble, too. When these kids come to Kamulu from their bases, they are giving of themselves. It is costly to do that. These kids have limited emotional funds left over from the over-exertion of emotional taxation they have experienced from terrible abuse or abandonment by family and society. Their circumstances have been extremely dire. They have been told (even by implication) that they have nothing to contribute. Yet they bravely choose to trade in their mind-numbing drugs for mind-sharpening books, their listless ease for hard work. Jesus knows their story well. He knows the stock it takes to trade comfort for a harsh world.
Every time a kid from MITS picks up the figurative ball and aims high, it is precious to God, regardless of the stats.
I doubt the two mites added up to much in regards to the temple expenses. But it absolutely made a difference because God was watching (and esteeming) her. The One who, you know, also watched as His son dauntlessly paid our debt.
So this is the meeting point. The widow crossing the temple grounds. The kids at MITS crossing the city. Jesus crossing the garden.
All of them share the invaluable currency of bravery, having to overcome fear of ostracism from a world whose sight and acuity is diverted by the scoreboard. Thank God we all royally profit from their fortitude.
Tabitha Martin is a teaching intern with Made in the Streets. She first encountered the students of MITS during a visit in 2016 and has returned to share life with them in the classroom for a few months. Read more about our internship opportunities.
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