“I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark. 12:43-44 NIV).
Who is the most generous person in the world? To date, according to Forbes.com, Bill Gates gave $28 billion with a net worth of $66 billion. Warren Buffet gave $17.25 billion with a net worth of $46 billion. George Soros gave $8.5 billion with a net worth of $19 billion. Gordon Moore gave $5 billion with a net worth of $4.8 billion. Carlos Slim Helu gave $4 billion with a net worth of $69 billion. [http://www.forbes.com/pictures/eilm45eijj/bill-gates-u-s/]
Who is the most generous person Jesus encountered? Would he rank Warren Buffet, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Carlos Slim Helu among them? You? Me?
The fact is, in Jesus’ way of thinking, the most generous are often those who names don’t make headlines. In most cases, their identities will never be known on this side of eternity. They are the most unsuspecting people and the most unlikely people. What impresses Jesus is not what one gives, but what one keeps after they have given. He measures the magnitude of our generosity by what we have left over. Here’s the principle: Generosity is not determined by the size of the gift but by the size of the sacrifice.
Case in point was a lady Jesus encountered at the temple courts. Jesus had sat down in the outer courtyard between the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of the Women. No doubt feeling frustrated and fatigued after been questioned in heated debate with the religious leaders of his day. He had come to rest, sitting opposite the place where the offerings were put. The walls of the courtyard were lined with receptacles to receive offerings of the people. Thirteen trumpet-looking chests were labeled for the specific purpose for which the money was to be given—some for the poor, some for temple sacrifices, etc. It was completely voluntary, recognizing God’s ownership and their stewardship.
Jesus was people watching. He observed the crowd putting money in the treasury. The Warren Buffets and Bill and Melinda Gates of his day put in large sums of cash. In the world’s eyes, it was impressive, the kind that gets you a plaque on the wall or your name on a building. But, then along came a poor person, a widow. She was a pauper. Despite what she earned it was insufficient to meet her needs. She was living in abject poverty with little to no hope for a major reversal in her economic state. No government program or social ministry would bale her out of her pitiful state. No easy employment existed for some quick cash. She was destitute.
Let stop here for just a moment and paint a hypothetical scenario: Let’s suppose an elderly woman whose husband died a few years ago asks for your advice. She says, “I’m down to my last two dollars. I have no more money. The cupboards are bare. These two dollars are all I have to live on, yet I feel as if God wants me to put them in the offering. What do you think?”
What would you tell her?
Likely you would say something like this: “That’s very generous of you, but God gave you common sense. He knows your heart—that you want to give—but he wants you to take care of yourself. He knows you need to eat. I’m sure God would have you keep those two dollars and buy food for tomorrow. He wants your needs to be met. You can’t expect him to send down food from heaven if you give up the little money he’s already provided, can you? God wants you to do the sensible thing.”
Back to the story of the poor widow at the Temple. All she had were two very small copper coins, combined would be worth about one-fourth of a cent. In our day, we walk over pennies on the ground, thinking it’s not worth the effort or the time to reach down and pick them up. This woman gave less than a penny. It was all she had. She probably went hungry that night because of her gift.
In contrast to our counsel to the elderly lady wanting to give her last two dollars, Jesus did not question the poor widow’s wisdom or her actions. He did not say she should be more reasonable and sensible. Instead he called his disciples over. This was a teachable moment. He gave her a commendation. “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark. 12:43-44 NIV). Jesus’ statement revealed that our beliefs about money are not only radically different from God’s but diametrically opposed to them. The rich had given out of their abundance, but the poor widow gave all that she had. The rich had made a big contribution while the poor woman had made a big sacrifice. Jesus gave greater respect and honor to a lowly woman who gave very little by earthly standards than the high and mighty people giving large sums. Never devalue your gift, however, small it is. Remember that in Jesus’ eyes generosity is not determined by the size of the gift but by the size of the sacrifice.