Recently while reading the Daily Office I came across one of the most powerful stories found in the synoptic Gospels. Often called The Widow’s Mite, the story appears in Mark & Luke and tells the story of Jesus, sitting across from the treasury, watching the rich folks place large amounts of money in. Just then a poor woman puts in two copper coins (Mark tells us that these two coins together equal a penny). Jesus’ response to this act of gratitude is, “This poor widow has put in more than all these…she has put in everything she had, her whole living.” (Mark 12: 43-44, Luke 21: 3-4)
At first we look at this story and say, well that’s nice. But there’s no miracle. Isn’t there? I would say that there certainly is a miracle here, only it is not Jesus who performs said miracle; rather it is the poor widow. A woman who has, seemingly nothing, offers all that she possesses. Not in an attempt to be praised by anyone, not because someone hounded her and made her feel guilty. She offers what she does out of her love for God, out of a sense of honor and respect for what God has commanded her to do. And that, especially in our day and age, is truly miraculous!
In an age when we are told we need more, an age in which we are told to take, rather than to give, we need to hear this story. The so-called Prosperity Gospel, which is preached far too loudly, tells us that if we give SOME money then God will bless us with MORE money (or some other treasure). But this is simply poor theology, and it treats our giving as some sort of contract with God, that if we do our part, God will bless us even more. But what of the widow? She does not give with the hope of attaining, rather she gives because that is what God has called her to do. It is this same kind of giving of the self that we are still called to model today.
New Testament scholar Preston Epps once wrote: “The Kingdom of Man says ‘get and accumulate,’ while the Kingdom of God says ‘give and share.’” The widow is not concerned with the getting; instead, it is the Kingdom of God with which she is concerned. When we give of ourselves, whether it be time, talent, or treasure, we are giving for the growth of the Kingdom of God.
We can learn from this woman’s example of giving in a world that often tells us to take. We can learn that, to borrow the words of St. Francis, “it is in giving that we receive.” For when we give we do so prayerfully, carefully, in deep conversation with God. Because when we give we do so, like the widow, for the growth of the Kingdom of God. And in the giving, miracles happen. So whether it is time, talent or treasure, ask yourself: what will I give to God?