“Our Widow's Mite”

Categories: Bulletin Articles, M. W. Bassford

When it comes to their service to the Lord, many Christians feel inadequate.  They see other brethren who appear to have it all together in their service to God—their families are perfect, their smiles undimmed, their spiritual record spotless.  What’s more, such Christians also often seem gifted beyond the norm.  They serve effortlessly and well in any number of ways.

If we find ourselves troubled by such thoughts, it helps to turn to the story of the widow’s mite in Mark 12:41-44.  In earthly, external terms, the widow looks like a spiritual failure too.  Next to the massive contributions made by the wealthy, her two small coins looked like a rounding error.  She wasn’t helping with the upkeep of the temple in any meaningful way.  If she had stayed home that day, nobody but Jesus would have noticed the difference.

However, it is the widow and not the wealthy benefactors whom the Lord praises.  They gave what they had left over, but she gave what she had.  God wasn’t terribly concerned with the state of the temple’s finances, but He was very concerned with the state of the donors’ hearts.  In His eyes, it was the one who gave almost nothing in earthly terms who shone the most brightly.

Today, it is both reassuring and alarming to realize that God judges us in the same way.  2000 years later, He still is not particularly concerned with externals.  He is not impressed by the most transcendent talents among His people.  If somebody can sing like David or preach like Apollos, it’s only because He made them that way. 

The same is true for riches and poverty.  If a Christian comes from a wealthy family, that’s a gift from God.  Likewise for the Christian who is born with business acumen or abilities that employers value highly.  We can squander such gifts or use them wisely, but even in the latter case, the credit belongs to God.

In His eyes, the important question is not what we have.  It’s how we use it.  Even if we are not very rich or not very smart or not very talented, we can be every bit as pleasing to Him as somebody who is extraordinarily smart and rich and talented. 

Sure, the fruit we bear may be insignificant in comparison to the fruit they bear.  However, just as the widow’s sacrifice could not be rightly measured by the surplus of the wealthy, our labor for the Lord cannot be measured by anyone else’s labor.  Maybe that smart, rich, and talented guy has been coasting for 20 years, and God is pure sick of getting only what is convenient from him!

We don’t know, of course, and it’s not our place to judge anyway.  Instead, we should worry less about what others are doing and focus on our own service.  “Give what you have,” does not require more from us than we have to give.  However, neither does it require less.