Yesterday, I read the story in Mark 12:41-44 about the poor widow giving all she had. Jesus sat near the offering boxes and noticed the crowd tossing in their contributions. Maybe some in the crowd gave their offerings thoughtlessly, just another item on their religious checklist. Maybe others thought a lot about what they gave and walked away with puffed up chests and noses in the air. The rich gave their large sums, and a poor widow gave her two pennies. Jesus let his disciples in on the truth they probably missed.
“The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” Mark 12 (MSG)
The story reminded me of another widow who gave all she had. God could have sent Elijah to another home, another family…..with more to give. But he chose the widow in Zarephath with nothing but enough flour and oil to prepare one last meal for her and her son. Instead, she used all she had to make a small loaf of bread for Elijah.
“…For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” 1 Kings 17:14
If you don’t know the rest of the story, I urge you to read it. It starts in 1 Kings verse 7 and ends in verse 24. I wonder if the the poor widow in Mark’s account knew the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. Perhaps it inspired her to give all she had.
The Bible tells us what happened to the widow of Zarephath, but we don’t know about the widow in Mark. What happened to her after she placed her coins in the offering? Did Jesus speak with her? Did the disciples help her?
We only know what Jesus said of her: she gave it all.
Maybe both widows inspired part of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. In the letter, Paul shared the story of the Macedonian churches’ overflowing generosity with the hope of encouraging the same in the Corinthian church. Titus delivered the letter which included this counsel:
And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. 2 Corinthians 8:10-12
It’s our willingness that matters, not how much or how little. There’s no need to compare our gifts because mine will be different than yours.
It’s about the motives in our hearts.
Is is duty? Is it a check mark on our religious to do list? Are we showing off? Are we buying our way into the inner circle, or trying to buy God’s favor?
Or are we giving from the overflow of the grace we’ve received?
Grace can be a loaf of bread or two pennies. It can be donating a $1000 a week or a full day at the rescue mission. Grace can be giving up a career to raise your family or going back to school to get a good job for your family. It can be giving up a dream or going for it.
God knows your heart. Ask Him to show it to you.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8