Why Ninety Cents is Greater Than $100
Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on. (Mark 12:43-44 ESV)
If you’re not familiar with the scene in Mark 12, a poor widow has just placed her contribution in the offering box. It was two tiny coins worth 1/64th of a day’s wages!
I did the math. In our current currency that’s about 90 cents. I don’t know about your house, but around here, the tooth fairy brings more than that as a reward for a natural biological function!
My kids run up to the offering jar at our church each week with a dollar a piece!
Can you imagine sitting in the pew as the plate is passed and watching a sweet lady next to you as she carefully counts out three quarters, a dime, and a nickle? She looks at them in her palm for a moment, touches each one, then lets them fall gently onto the bills and folded checks padding the bottom of the plate.
That’s all she gave. Not even enough to buy a coke at most vending machines.
But even more shocking, that’s all she HAD.
This story has inspired me, confounded me, encouraged me, and frustrated me since I was a child.
My thoughts go something like this:
She gave all the money she had! Wow, what a giver! Surely she will be great in the kingdom of heaven!
Wait, why should she even have to give? Shouldn’t the church be giving her money? I mean, we are definitley supposed to look out for the widows.
Are we talking about giving money or giving our blessings, our talents, ourselves?
Hmm, ok, so anything I give to the Lord, no matter how insignificant it seems, is great if I am giving all I can?
That’s what’s so great about Jesus and His stories: There’s so many lessons and viewpoints in each one!
The word of God is living and active! (Heb. 4:12) Every time we read it, we can learn something new.
Today, I noticed that just a few verses before this scene, Jesus gave The Greatest Commands, that is: 1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself.
There was a scribe sitting there listening to Jesus, and he got it. He understood what Jesus was saying and he exclaimed, “you’re right!” And basically repeats what Jesus said. Jesus, I can only imagine his amusement must have been the way I feel when one of my kids “gets it”, he responds “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Then a few moments later, this widow showed up and gave all she had. It is not ONLY her sacrifice that is remarkable, but her motive. Why DID she do that?
She gave all she had because she loved the Lord with all she had. All her heart, all her soul, all her mind, and all her strength.
Some of us are blessed with more than we can imagine.
We have been given opportunities, wealth, talents, good looks (or at least normal looks!), happy families, good health, and a support system of believers and friends. We don’t deserve any of it and yet here we are, swimming in abundance!
Verses like this make us uncomfortable because we think, “I can’t give EVERYTHING I have.”
We are like the rich young man in Mark 10. He had followed all the commands and Jesus said Great! Now just one more thing… Actually the Bible says “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
The young man went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. I wonder what the one thing he lacked was?
“How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
These stories make us uneasy and afraid. Do I have too many “blessings” to enter the kingdom of God?
I would encourage you to look at two things here: 1–Jesus LOVED the rich young man. See? It says so right in the text! So he loves you too! 2–The scribe who was close to the kingdom of God, he “got it” when he said this: “To love him (God) with all the heart and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:32-33) The Lord desires most that you love him with all you have.
Some of us are not so blessed.
We are like the widow, poor in possessions and poor in spirit. We struggle to make ends meet. We feel left out, different. Our things are not as fine as other people’s. We look different, and we can’t seem to get anything right. Our families are struggling, dysfunctional. We have health challenges that make every day a battle to go on. We feel alone, outsiders in church and social settings. We struggle with past mistakes, mental illness, lack of opportunity, or limited mental capacity.
If that’s you, the story of the widow and her meager offering is EVERYTHING you need to hear. What you have, monetarily or otherwise, is ENOUGH. Give your meager offering, your 90 cents, your hour of kindness, your gentle word, your hugs. Those gifts given from your scarcity are worth MORE than all the gifts given from abundance.
I don’t have the words to express how precious and valuable those gifts are. Jesus, himself, has called you great and promised you the kingdom. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
If all you can manage today is to get off the couch and serve your child lunch, you are loving your neighbor. If you can do more, then do more! But the value of the gift is not found in how great an act it is. It is found in how difficult it is to begin.
When you give it all you’ve got, that’s enough.
Whether the story of the widow’s offering makes you feel uneasy or gives you great hope, I want you to remember that the Lord wants all you have–not your money–YOU! Micah 6:8 tells us “what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Swimming in abundance or swimming in struggles, whatever you give to the Lord in love for him and his people, will be blessed.