THE POOR WIDOW'S OFFERING
This widow's story is found both in the Gospel of Mark, and in the Gospel of Luke. Mark tells it like this:
He (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.
And calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44 NAS)
This is all that we learn about this widow. We know nothing about her background or situation, only that she was poor. The only reason that two of the gospel writers tell her story is because of this single act of hers and what Jesus said
I have often thought specifically about the fact that Jesus said that she put in “more” than all the contributors to the treasury, despite the fact that her amount was very small. We may not have put it in the same way. We may have said that her devotion or commitment was greater, since she gave all that she had. This despite the fact that the actual monetary amount was very small.
But that is not what Jesus said. He called the amount of the contribution more, not just the greater percentage of what she had. This leads me to understand that the economy of God is different than what we see in the world today.
When we are raising funds in the economy of the world today, we are given a dollar amount that must be gathered before the work can begin. Vivian and I knew this well when we were first going to Venezuela. We were going there under the auspices of a large mission organization that understood very well the expected cost of the job that we were to do there. They had calculated not only the daily living expense, but the cost of visas, travel, medical, work expenses, and the list goes on. The total amount was the number of dollars that we were expected to raise.
From the very beginning of this task of raising this money, I had to admit to some ambivalent thoughts about it. On the one hand, I knew that there were actual dollar costs for the mission that could not be met unless we had the funds to do so. But on the other hand, it bothered me a little that the work of the Lord should be tied so closely to a dollar amount, as if one were purchasing an automobile.
At that time, “the widow’s mite” taught me a great lesson. The widow with the two small copper coins wanted to contribute to something that she believed to be important and very worthwhile. So important was this to her that, according to the words of Jesus, she gave “all that she owned, all that she had to live on.”
Also according to the words of Jesus, this small amount, which amounted to a penny, was “more than all the contributors to the treasury.”
Such is the economy of heaven, and so it was that when we began to raise money for our mission work, I came to realize that the dollar amount was not the principle goal. This was a revolutionary thought to me. We all have seen posters of fund-raising campaigns that feature a large picture of a thermometer with increments of dollar amounts – the top amount being the goal. As the campaign progresses, we can see the red of the thermometer climb slowly higher and higher. All eyes are set on the quantity of dollars needed.
But this is not the economy of heaven. In the economy of heaven, eyes are set not principally on the gift, but instead on the giver. After all, it is only the giver who has lasting value. The money is temporal, but the giver will endure forever.
This is what this widow taught me, and so it was when Vivian and I began our “deputation work,” as it is called, we decided that instead of our goal being to try and “raise the funds,” we would instead see what we could do to bring blessing and encouragement to the churches that we visited.The result of what we had learned from the widow’s mite was that we enjoyed our time of visiting churches, since we had as our main objective to bring encouragement to them in any way that we were able. We were, of course, also conscious of the requirements put onto us in order to be able to leave for Venezuela. Nevertheless, I also came to realize that the quantity was dependent upon the quality of the giver.
It was in the giver where we saw the true blessing of the Lord, not in the money that we raised.