Todd Stiles   -  

Look around and you will notice a discouraging trend in this day of space-age science and hi-tech computers: the bigger the better! The retailer with the biggest volume gets the most business; the restaurant with the largest variety attracts the most customers. The church with the biggest congregation receives the noblest applause. We have sadly degenerated into a culture that prizes largeness. The more the merrier, you might say. People are after the car phone with the most coverage, the house with the most square footage, the job with the highest salary, and the auto that travels the furthest distance in the least amount of time with the fewest repairs.

Unfortunately, we, the church of Jesus Christ, have silently bought into this faulty way of thinking. We assume the largest offerings, the biggest buildings, and the highest attendance are what impresses God and others. I often wonder what Jesus would say if He were to see us in our state of panic in this numerical maze.

But our problem is not a new one.  Mark 12 indicates there were “ladder climbers” and “image-a-holics” in the day of Jesus as well. Imagine the scene in your mind’s eye: Proud, prating men in long, flowing robes, casually sauntering to the front of the temple to make their offerings, large ones at that. Slowly, methodically, mechanically each one places his offering, noisy coin by noisy coin, in the designated trumpet-shaped receptacle. As the coins drop one by one into the container, the crowds turn to see just who is giving such great amounts of money to God. To no one’s surprise, it is the Pharisees. And as the people gaze in awe at the spiritual elite, these Pharisees smile and take a spiritual bow, gloating in their glory.

But today there is someone new in the audience: Jesus. And He is not impressed at all by the show. Suddenly, a small lady, with a frail frame, makes her way to the front of the temple and insignificantly places in a simple mite, a coin worth about a nickel in today’s economy. She leaves as quietly as she entered, hoping no one would notice her. But someone did.

Yes, Jesus noticed her. But what will He say? What does He consider to be the most impressive? Will he verbally scourge the widow and praise the Pharisees? Will He condemn the elderly for giving such a small amount when everyone else made such a great sacrifice? Or did they? What is the essence of sacrifice—amount given or amount left over?  Now we finally see what Jesus loved about the precious lady of old and her simple gift.

It was not the amount of her offering that impressed God, just as it was not the largeness of the Pharisee’s gift that he denounced. Rather, it was the element of sacrifice that impressed our Savior. You see, when the Pharisees gave, they gave of their “abundance” (verse 44); the widow gave out of her poverty. Suddenly, it is clear that sacrifice has nothing to do with size, for God takes notice, not only of how much we give, but also of how much we have left over. When the widow gave that one, single mite, it was all she had. And that was all that God wanted. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing larger. Just that one, simple mite.

But let’s ask ourselves—Is that really all she gave? No. When she gave that one, insignificant mite, she gave her next meal, her next wardrobe, her next gift for a friend. Yes, she gave more than a simple monetary item; she gave all she had! Now she had nothing left. No more resources. No more savings. She had given it away to the blessed Savior, a sacrifice that prompted the Almighty God of the universe to sit up and take notice.

I’m not sure if the widow of Mark 12 would survive in our culture. She wouldn’t get noticed on the church financial report, and would, more than likely, be overlooked at the annual stewardship banquet. I doubt she’d even be missed at the yearly budget meeting. But in God’s economy, “bigger” is not always “better.” She attracted God’s attention, a feat the Pharisees could not accomplish with their millions.

The next time you are tempted to seek to impress, fudge the numbers, or exaggerate the results, think back to the poor widow who had very little according to man, yet caused very Deity to smile with approval. Realize it is not size that impresses our Lord, but sacrifice. For even the smallest gift, when given out of our need and sacrificed in dependence, is mighty enough to catch the eye of the One who gave all He had. That’s a mighty mite!