(41) Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.(42) Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.(43) So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;(44) for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” (Mk 12:41-44)
This is a familiar story that most Christians probably have known since they were in elementary school. The main takeaway is God doesn’t look at the absolute quantity of our offerings, but rather the amount we offer in proportion to what we have. Yet, that is not all that God looks at. Read verse 41 carefully:
“Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury.”
Yes, Jesus did see the amount and proportion that people were giving, but his intention was not to observe how much people were offering, but rather the manner in which they offered. Not how much, but how.
We often regard the monetary offerings as representative of other things like time and energy. Since I officially became a “working youth,” I think I’ve started to better understand the members in church who work and manage their families and all sorts of matters like various errands and bills. To my shame, I’ve begun to realize how much I’ve misjudged many of them.
As a student somehow I was under the impression that students were busier than those who were older and were working (maybe other students feel this way too. Or maybe I was just weird and liked to pity myself). As a result, I would look at the older members’ contributions in church and would be unimpressed. Sometimes I would find myself thinking along the lines of, “They do so little even though they have so much more time than me.” Yeah, I am really naive.
After living for a couple months relatively independently, I’ve been able to understand/observe just how busy some members really are–how much work and stress there is involved in maintaining a house and car and other properties, tending to and caring for little kids, managing finances and bills, and preparing and cooking wholesome meals, all in addition to working a full-time job. These people, when all is said and done, really don’t have much time for themselves at all. Unlike the majority of students, who easily defer projects and still find hours to binge-watch a TV show, they really can’t afford to put off the things they need to do. When it comes to the time they have left after getting through the day, they are just like the poor widow in Mark 12:42. All they have left is the equivalent of two mites.
And yet, some of them, like this poor widow, are willing to give what they have left to the church. Maybe they only cook once every two quarters. Maybe they only come to service a few minutes early to help set up. Maybe they only spend their few spare minutes to pray for the church.
Obviously I cannot tell for sure when this is the case and when it is not, but I really do think there are truly those who fall under the above description; genuinely pressed for time, but humbly offering the little they have left, even though they are most justified in keeping it for themselves (student or not).
We often echo James’ words: “Faith without deeds is dead.” To me, the seemingly insignificant offerings of these people reveal a beautiful and sincere faith that I was previously oblivious to. To me, these people actually offer more not just because percentage-wise it’s true, but fundamentally because they love God more. And I think this is what Jesus noticed about the widow, when He saw how she offered her two mites.
Ironic, how an inferior offering in the material sense can be the manifestation of a greater love towards God and His church.