I have some very old coins at home, some denarii and some lepta. A denarius was worth roughly a day’s wage and a lepton (known also as the widow’s mite) was worth a few minute’s works. Both of these types of coins were in circulation in Judea during Jesus’ ministry. I love these coins because they remind me of the radical truths that Jesus taught.
Jesus once observed people giving money at the temple treasury. Many rich people gave large amounts. But a poor widow gave only two small coins (lepta). Jesus said to his disciples, “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 widow’s example was staggering and incredibly intimidating. Does following Jesus mean we also have to give away everything? Probably a better way of understanding this is that she trusted God with everything. She didn’t hold back.
As C.S. Lewis said, many of us relate to God and what he gives us, like we relate to paying taxes. We pay what we feel obliged to give, but all the while hope that there’s enough left to do with what we want. We easily forget the overwhelming generosity that God has shown us in Jesus. God didn’t hold back.
What does this mean for us? We need to constantly challenge ourselves to exercise both trust and generosity. In the anxious and uncertain times we’re going through, we might feel inclined to hold back: to stockpile household necessities meaning others are deprived; to minimise social contact to safeguard from infection; to be less inclined towards patience with people because we’re more stressed than normal.
Instead, let’s exercise intentional generosity. When you can’t meet with people, give someone a call and ask how you can pray for them. When someone has offended you, exercise grace and patience. When you’ve been in a habit of financially giving to God’s work, make sure you continue that commitment. When you hear of a need in the community around you, figure out how you can meet it.
Remember God’s generosity to us. Let’s not hold back.