Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.” Mark 12: 41-44 (NIV)
There is always more to the story. Have you ever noticed that? No matter who you are talking to or what situation you are in, there is some piece of information, some perspective, that would shed new light and bring deeper understanding. Circumstances, history and motivations build upon each other and ultimately contribute to overall meaning. This is called context. And context matters.
As we engage in relationships and try to share the love of Jesus, the value of context may seem obvious. But how many times have you misunderstood a situation, or even a person, because you did not know the whole story? How often have you missed a deeper meaning because you did not look beyond the moment? Or maybe you have been the one misunderstood as your context got lost in a hectic schedule or blind assumption.
Context matters to Jesus. I was reminded of this recently while reading the story in Mark 12: 41-44. Some might have watched the people tossing coins into the collection plate and assumed that a large offering was a reflection of deep devotion. Some might have expected that rich and poor would give different amounts and simply applauded the act of giving itself. In the midst of a crowd, some would not have noticed a solitary woman at all.
Yet Jesus saw her. And not just in that moment. When he looked at her, he saw much more than a poor woman in a line. He saw her whole story. The truth of her current situation wrapped in the facts of her history, the depth of her faith in the midst of a hard situation. Her context brought deeper meaning to an act of obedience. It revealed her heart and Jesus valued that more than silver and gold.
I am challenged by that. Not so much that money is less valuable than a person’s heart, but that Jesus takes the time to really look and listen. That he does not allow a single statement, action or moment to define the course of His relationships. He sees the truth, the whole truth, and He understands.
Although it is unlikely that we will ever know every detail of another person’s heart, we are compelled as followers of Jesus to see each other in truth. We are compelled to look for the life context that brings meaning to the moment. Seek to understand the bigger picture of a person’s story – not make assumptions, not rush on by. Let’s let our present encounters display a love in this moment that reflects a life full of meaning.