Two meager coins is all it takes…


Last week I read something that made me think deeply. It was the account of a small gift made by an impoverished old woman. The importance of this account was highlighted by Jesus to his disciples. It was not a parable (an illustrative tale) but rather an actual event that they witnessed. It was a teachable moment for Jesus and the disciples, and remains so today.

This poor widow, living in ancient Jerusalem had meager resources and no prospects in her day – no Social Security, no food stamps, no Medicaid, no job placement agencies, no government programs to assist her. In that era, an old widow had only her children and family to care for her, if they were able or willing to do so. There are no indications from this account that such people existed in her life. Neither is a there any indication that she is a beggar, just that she is poor.

The disciples and Jesus sat and watched at the treasury as the people passed and dropped their gifts into the offering box. Many rich people passed and gave large sums – apparently very generous.

And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.  Mark 12:42 (ESV)

Jesus now points out to the disciples that the gift the widow gave was generous. She gave all she had, while in contrast, the rich gave gifts out of their abundance – the excess.  The widow gave all she had to live on.


The lesson here is far more profound then a discussion of monetary gifts.

God has bestowed on each of us (including me) various gifts, talents, and resources. We each have a unique composition of skills, abilities, and desires. How we use them is of critical importance. Do we hold tightly to what we have, only giving away the excess? Do we squander a precious resource in search of a fleeting dream or selfish accumulation?

My wealth is abundant: good health, time (today’s 24 hours), a caring heart, organizational skills, a sound mind, writing talent, the love of children, and an ability to teach. I can use my wealth for selfish gain, storing up until I reach an age for “retirement” or I can give my gifts freely and wholly to God, for promoting His Kingdom.

I can easily give out of my abundance and impress most people – a little effort here and there that I can spare the time to do.

Or, I can give my all – my whole life – everything I possess and everything that I am.

Let’s look again at the poor widow. There is connotation in those two words. She had no financial wealth or security.  She was vulnerable, yet she is commended for giving what she had to survive on.

She took action in her weakness.

She stepped out in faith.  In areas where we are not strong, that is where we take risk and trust God – to give our all – to take action, even when the outcome is uncertain.

Can I do that? Can I give God my everything? My strength? My health? My care and concern? My writing? My time?

As I reflect on this, I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s guidance to Timothy concerning the rich people of this world. Timothy is to

Command those who are rich in this present world not be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” I Timothy 6:17 (NIV)

The bottom line is when we are generous – when we approach life with open hands, rather than clutching on to this world’s wealth, we obtain contentment.

This stems from embracing the truth that God will provide true life and enjoyment for us – a life that is worth living.

What about you? How can you let go of that which isn’t very important and live a life that is generous and willing to give all – everything?

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About John Forrest