Jesus and Two Copper Coins
As we have already mentioned during the course of this blog series, Jesus has a lot to say about money. Not because Jesus needs your money, but because money is one of those things that can be extremely alluring and deceptive. It can sneak into our hearts and develop a home there, and when it does that, we are in danger of losing our compassion and humanity.
So, today, we encounter another scene where Jesus has something to say about money. But more than just money, Jesus wants to talk about what it is that directs our lives. What is our guiding compass telling us where to go? What is our schedule telling us we should be doing at this particular time? Where are our allegiances? And yet again, Jesus will say something that is shocking to me.
The scene today comes in Mark 12:41-44. It is a small little scene that you may have heard before, but that doesn’t get a lot of attention outside of children’s lessons. Take a moment to read this passage by clicking here.
The very first thing that strikes me about this scene (and other scenes like the ones about generosity and giving in the book of Acts) is how public the giving is in Scripture compared to how it is in our day today. There are both positives and negatives that come along with this. On the positive side of things, by giving in private as we do today, we follow Jesus’ command to not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. This helps to prevent us from becoming prideful, boastful, and egotistical about our place in the church based on our financial means. However, on the negative side, when we don’t give publicly, we lose the opportunity to be held accountable with our financial means. We trust that each person is doing the best they can to give to God what is God’s, but we do not have the ability to help each other.
Now, to be clear, I am not advocating for one of these views over the other. I simply see a difference in the ways that we tend to handle our monies and contributions compared to what we see in this scene. Jesus is observing the crowd as they give their money. We prefer to have our giving be done more privately.
But, second, and more importantly, it is ultimately not the amount that is given that Jesus chooses to comment on. It is the heart and spirit with which the money is given that Jesus wants to recognize.
A poor widow drops two small copper coins into the collection, and Jesus immediately goes into action. (This is one of those times where Jesus knows more than the rest of us do, by the way. Don’t you just love that Jesus is able to do that?) Here is a woman who has not just given from excess and from her spare money. She has given her all. She could have used this money to buy food for herself, but instead she has come to give it to God.
The text does not comment on her attitude in giving, but it’s hard to imagine that Jesus is looking at this woman who is willing to make such a sacrifice and giving her special attention in this teaching moment if she was grumbling about it the whole time. No, I imagine that this woman is completely devoted to God. She wants to honor God with her money because she knows and has learned that her money isn’t really hers at all. She has learned that this is God’s gift to her, and she is giving it back now because of how much she loves God.
We, in the church, often encourage people to give to God the first fruits of our means. The purpose of this is to imitate this woman–to develop a love and devotion of God that gives willingly from what we need to make the mortgage payments, bills, kids’ sports dues, groceries, and on and on the list could go. We give to God from the first of our money because we want to have the same kind of heart as this unnamed woman in Mark 12.
Jesus knows us. Jesus knows how easy it can be to get busy and to have to not only meet the requirements of all the things we have committed to but to pay for them as well. We live in a complicated world with so many things seeking our attention. But Jesus knows that when we give to God first, we are giving more than we know or realize.
So, this week, whether it is from your finances, from your gifting, or your time, find a way to give to God first. Give to God, serve someone else, take time to devote to worship of God. When you do, you will be a blessing that even you don’t know what the end result will be.