A tourist packs not only their camera and binoculars but also a good supply of assumptions, expectations, and preconceived conclusions. Take for example those tram rides or lifts that carry you to the top of the mountain: a tourist climbs aboard already knowing / assuming what they want to see; brochure and camera in hand. They get to the top, snap a few photos and selfies, admire the incredible view and then hop back on and rides back down. At which point they purchase a souvenir to remember it all.
A pilgrim gathers in the same area but rather than board the tram, they slip into their day pack, tighten the straps and start hiking - taking it all in: the steep incline, rocky terrain, possible storms, the heat, discomfort, the unknown. They are committed to the experience and invested in the journey. They reach the top, tired and sweaty, make their way to the lookout area and sit down - absorbing the anticipated view. They might take a photo but even without it, the scene is etched in their mind and heart. After some water and a snack to refuel, they tighten up the laces on their boots, sling the pack back on, and make their way back down, not needing a souvenir to remember what they just experienced.
Who got more out of the trip? Who invested more in the process? Who came closer to knowing the value of where they were, what they saw, who they met along the way, and how they were changed? I have nothing against tourists, I have been one and I am sure I will be again. But when it comes to our faith walk - our journey with God and our pursuit of living a Christ like life, I pray we all strive to be a pilgrim in how we live, serve, and love.
Mark 12:41-44 contains a powerful story of a widow with a pilgrim heart. These four verses speak volumes about how we are to give of what we have and how to live as pilgrims of faith rather than tourists. It is the widow who shows the very heart of giving and it wasn’t about the amount she gave - it’s never about the amount. It’s about the heart. It's about understanding Jesus is more interested in the motivation of our heart than the assumptions in our head.
The Widow's Mites
Two mites, two drops, yet all her house and land,
Fall from a steady heart, though trembling hand :
The other's wanton wealth foams high, and brave ;
The other cast away, she only gave by Richard Crashaw
Jesus wants us to want to to give not because we have to or feel guilty or pressured to write that check or support another project, but because when we give sacrificially, it means we understand it is about the relationship, not the deposit slip. It is the relationship with God and others, not the relationship with money and materials. That’s how Jesus makes the greatest difference with what we give - in the building, bridging, and sustaining of relationships.
Tourists don’t have time for that. Tourists see their faith from a safe distance - they make assumptions and count on their preconceived ideas and conclusions. They take in the view like they would from the top of the mountain or like the sights of a new city. So often, as tourists we give what is comfortable, predictable and measurable, not so much what makes us uncomfortable.
Commentators tell us that of all that we learn from this woman and her giving, there are three foundational lessons. First, real giving is sacrificial - it costs us something. Real generosity gives until it hurts and I would add, until it makes us uncomfortable, because in the uncomfortable we learn, like Josh did, there is so much more to our growth and experience. In the uncomfortable - when our expectations are transformed is when all we can do is trust God will provide. Whether it is money, time, talent, or the giving of our most vulnerable self, our deepest emotion, our biggest dream, or our smallest desire.
Second, real giving has a certain recklessness in it. The woman might have kept one coin. It would not be much but it would at least be something, yet she gave everything she had. There is a great symbolic truth here. It is our tragedy that there are so often some part of our lives, some part of our activities, some part of ourselves which we do not give Jesus. Somehow there is nearly always something we hold back - “just in case.”
Third, it is a strange and lovely thing that the person whom the New Testament and Jesus hand down to history as a pattern of generosity was a person who gave a monetary gift so small, it barely counted as a penny yet has brought huge dividends. The widow is our example of the heart of giving, we just have to put our hiking boots on and trust the journey is worth it.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine