The widow's mite and the spirit of giving

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When I was young, the widow's mite was one of my favorite bible stories. Most Christians know the story off by heart, but it is still one worth repeating.

The story relates a time when Jesus, with his disciples, were in a temple watching the people give their donations. At the time, many of the rich and wealthy would use Church donations as a way to show off their prosperity and power. Sure enough, several wealthy men were in the temple that day, making as much noise and commotion as they could while depositing large numbers of coin into the offering receptacles so everyone could see what splendid gentlemen they were.

But did Jesus pay these men any mind? No. His eyes were on a poor and tired widow. A widow who meekly came to offering to give what she had - two lonely mites (the small denomination of coin possible, barely worth a few cents). When he saw this, he directed his disciples attention to the woman and said to them "Truly I tell you, 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”

The passage struck me when I was young, and its impact has only deepened with time and experience.

When I was a little boy, what impressed me about the story was the way Jesus' esteem so radically differed from everyone around him. He saw the value of giving not just in terms of money, but in faith and spirit. That he understood that to that widow, those measly copper coins meant more in her life than all the gold offered up by those rich men who could easily afford to spare it. Those two coins were of little value in an earthly sense, but spiritually, they were more precious than platinum. 

As I've grown older and experienced some lean times and desperate moments in my own life, I've also come to better appreciate the faith and devotion of the widow. This was a woman who was in need of charity herself. Even still, she found the spirit to give. The faith that the Lord would know how to make better use of what little she had than she could do with it.

This widow, even in the depths of her poverty, had the perspective and insight to know that there were people even worse off than her that needed help. She had faith that the Lord would protect and sustain her, so she gave what she could. How beautiful.

What can we take away from this story? Does it mean we should literally give and give and give until we have nothing left? No. What this story teaches us is the spirit of giving. Of keeping a generous spirit towards others even when things aren't going so great in your own life. Of giving humbly and joyfully, not so others can see what a great fella you are, but to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

If you can afford to give, then give. It's okay if you can't give much. Even a few dollars can make an enormous impact in the lives of the hungry and endangered. Trust in the Lord like the widow did, and that money will do more than you can possibly imagine. 

If you well and truly cannot afford to give any money, then give in other ways. With the advent of social media, it has never been easier to spread the word, to signal boost for a worthy cause. Share a link, raise your voice. It doesn't cost you a cent and yet the right message to the right person may save a life.

You don't need to be rich to give generously. So long as your heart and faith are in the right place, whatever you can give will be a precious gift in the eyes of the Lord. 

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