Stephen H. Bindas, Stewardship Director, Ikeja, Lagos
Summary: Giving is a reflection of our relationship with God. Giving shows generosity. It is an act of worship. Gifts of any size are pleasing to God when given out of gratitude and a spirit of generosity. God deserves our very best.
Do you know that prayer is mentioned about 350 times in the Bible? Love is mentioned more that 700 times? Money is mentioned more that 2000 times? Yet, questions about money are still asked, for example: “Why does the Bible put more emphasis on money?” “Does God really need our money?” “Is money more important than salvation?” “Doesn’t stewardship emphasize the whole man?” Why and how we give continues to be a concern for many of us. The Bible lets us know however that giving is a reflection of our relationship with God. Therefore, it is important for us to have a proper attitude towards giving.
In Mark 12:41-44, it recounts the story of people from different parts of the country coming to Jerusalem, the center of Jewish worship. Both the rich and the poor could certainly be found there. And as usual, offerings would be offered as part of their worship service. Several receptacles were placed in the temple for various offerings – some for the collection of the temple taxes and others for the free-will offerings. In the temple, worshippers would be lined up to give their offerings while the priests watch the giving ceremony. During this time no paper money had been invented so worshippers would drop large amounts of coins into the treasury. As they dropped the coins into the temple treasury, the coins would make a loud noise.
The widow’s offering
While the worshippers dropped their coins into the temple treasury, Jesus is intently watching the whole exercise. As the rich and the affluent give plenty, they make a show of it wanting to make a spectacle of themselves.
In the midst of these people comes a poor widow who lives hand-to-mouth is unnoticed as she drops two mites into the box – a very insignificant offering. This is all she possesses. These coins do not make any loud noise, but a faint ‘click’ in the box. Hardly anyone sees what she has done, but Jesus sees her (Mk 12:43). At that time, Jesus draws the attention of His disciples and all the people to what the widow has done. She gave little but the best.
One might wonder why does Jesus honor this widow publicly. What is important about her offering? We must remember that this story is only told in the context of giving. A story that no one cares to notice. A hazy picture of a widow that could hardly be seen in the background, and yet, she loves God supremely.
Lessons to learn
1. Jesus is interested in our attitude towards giving. The widow did not make a big show of it. She possessed the spirit of great sacrifice. She put in all she possessed. God is interested in our attitude and not only in our money, time, and talents. Giving shows generosity. It is an act of worship.
2. Jesus is interested in those who are alone. This was the widow’s situation. Her husband was dead; she had no friends or relations. She had nothing but only two mites. Who cares for this kind of person? What she had was the sum of her livelihood. When she gave all, she was totally dependent upon God. The truth that is hard to accept and difficult to practice, which many of us are guilty of, is all that we have belongs to God–we are His stewards.
3. Commendable giving is sacrificial giving. A mite is the smallest of the Jewish coins which is about one-fourth of a penny today. The widow gave only two mites in contrast to the rich who had a surplus. They had more than they needed. They gave from their surplus which didn’t cost them anything. The value of their gifts in terms of love and devotion was nothing because these represented no denial of self. Thus Jesus saw in the widow what He could not see in the others–selflessness and sacrifice. The widow could have kept one coin and given one coin. But, she gave all–cheerfully and sacrificially. God deserves our very best and never our leftovers.
4. God does not expect everyone to give the same amount. The Lord wants equal sacrifice and not equal giving. The widow did not give as much as the others. She did not give to make an impression or recognition. She gave everything she had. Though she had no husband, bank account, job, or social security as another source of income, she gave proportionately to what she had.
5. Jesus knows everything about us. Jesus watched the people as they gave just as He is watching us today. Jesus knew her heart and He knows our hearts. God will surely hold us responsible for what He has entrusted to us.
A story is told of a boy who was given two coins by his father. One coin for offering, while the other for his ice-cream. As he was running to buy the ice-cream, he dropped one of the coins. After several minutes of searching in vain for the coin, the boy was in a dilemma – to buy the ice-cream or give an offering! He finally said, “God, I am sorry, I have a plan.”
This story clearly illustrates our attitude when we are faced with choosing between our personal wants and needs or giving an offering, we will often say, “God, I’m sorry, I have a plan.”
God does not put value on us because of what we have, but on what Jesus came to do for us. In the Lord’s eyes, this poor widow gave more than those present could give all together. Though her gift was by far the smallest, it was the best. The value of a gift is not determined by its amount but by the spirit in which it is given. A gift given grudgingly or for recognition loses its value. When you give, remember gifts of any size are pleasing to God when given out of gratitude and a spirit of generosity.
This story of the widow’s mite contains only four verses but it has much to teach us. Her name is not mentioned, but her acts are known and recorded. There was nothing in her bank account, but she gave much and the best!