The famous incident recorded in Mark 12:41-44 makes me uneasy every time I read it. And well it should. The poor widow put in everything she had — everything! Two chapters earlier, Jesus encountered a rich young man, on whom he had compassion, but that young man was not willing to give up what he had. Not all of it!
“Put your money where…” You know the rest of that saying, don’t you?
The widow did it, although I doubt she talked about it, either before or after she gave all she had.
She condemns those of us who give out of our abundance and feel proud about it.
She condemns those who have much, give some but critique those who don’t give as much.
She condemns those who have little and won’t give anything at all.
Maybe you remember the story that goes something like this:
A pig farmer was asked, “If you had 100 pigs, would you give 10 pigs to help the poor?” He said, “Of course; I would happily do that.” He was then asked if he had 70 pigs, would he give 7 to help the poor; again he responded, “Yessir, that would be the right thing to do.” Again he was asked: “If you had 50 pigs would you give 5 to feed the poor.” Again, his answer was a firm “yes.”
The man continued to ask the farmer if he would be willing to give a small percentage of his stock to help the poor and the farmer kept answering, “yes.” Finally, the man asked, “if you had 10 pigs would you give one to help the poor.” This time, the farmer paused, looked up at the sky, shuffled his feet and said, “Son, I couldn’t do that. You see, I have 10 pigs.”
Sometimes, we do that. We might say, “how I wish I had a million dollars, I would gladly do this and I would do that…”
But what are we doing with what we have?
The widow only had two mites to her name; she tossed both of them in the offering and Jesus commended her for it (Mark 12).
It’s not how much we give, it’s how much we have left over.
Did you catch that?
What matters in giving is not how much you give, but how much you have left after you give.
Those who are well-heeled in our society are fond of making others feel guilty because they give x # of dollars for this or that charity. You see it in magazines where the editorial content is ultra-liberal, chiding people for failure to support various charities. But look at their ads: Brietling watches that go for a measly $5,000 or Italian hand-made ties for $650.
You hear men brag, “I gave a million dollars to the ____ organization, blah, blah, blah.” Often that man’s name goes on a building or a monument.
Thing is, that guy bought his wife a million dollar diamond, wears $2500 shoes and lives in a $15 million dollar mansion that he drives to in his $300,000 Bentley.
I don’t begrudge him his lifestyle; being rich is not a sin. But he should not be making people feel guilty who make less than he spends on entertainment every year how to give.
The widow gave all she had.
For all of us, it’s what we’ve got left over, not how much we give.