It's been called the "widow's mite," the tiny amount of money Christ watched the poor widow give to the temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44). Two small copper coins.
Much has been written and pontificated about how this offering by an impoverished, disenfranchised woman compares to the large sums of money being given by far wealthier people.
But how much of it do we take to heart? I, for one, struggle with this passage.
If poverty and wealth exist as relative terms, we can recognize that the larger theme of this scenario has less to do with the actual size of the offering, and more to do with how much money was left over afterwards.
For the widow, Christ observes that she gave all that she had. Whereas the wealthy put in money out of their surplus. Christ didn't put a dollar amount on what the wealthy gave, or a fixed percentage. Instead, He looked at their hearts. Indeed, God has never needed the actual currency that His people tithe and offer to Him. He wants to see how we arrive at the amount we release. Church offerings aren't so much a fundraising exercise as they are a demonstration of faith.
So, who had richer faith? The widow, who likely left the temple with nary a clue as to where her next meal or rent money would come from? Or the wealthy givers, who left the temple with considerably more confidence in their income stream? Which lifestyle begets greater faith? Some might want to argue that the more lavish the lifestyle, the greater faith you need that you'll be able to keep it going. But I'm thinkin' that ain't what Christ had in mind.
In fact, Christ knew that the widow's confidence did not come from what she had, but from something she could never purchase. There was little need for her to hoard money, since her trust lay God.
Now, we know that taken wholistically, the Bible does not teach that believers should intentionally become economically destitute. We are to provide for our families, be prudent in our saving, and be responsible for looking out for the needs of others. We can't do much of that if we're literally giving away every cent we earn.
But what Christ intends for His disciples to glean from this temple vignette involves recognizing that whatever we have is not ours. Whether we have a lot of whatever society values, or not. None of it is ours to keep, and it's not even really ours to give away. It's all God's. And to the extent that we're willing to return to Him all that He's entrusted to us, we should be confident that He will supply our needs.
Everything. Like we would be walking out of church, utterly dependant on our Savior for not only our salvation, but our daily bread.
The widow's might was God Himself. Would that we were so empowered.