A Gift of Leftovers

by Bill Denton

A Gift of Leftovers

"And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on'" (Mark 12:41-44, NASB95).

Two mites, two drops (yet all her house and land),

Falls from a steady heart, though trembling hand;

The other's wanton wealth foams high, and brave,

The other cast away, she only gave.

"The Widow's Mite"

by Richard Crashaw

Sometimes it only takes a few words to say volumes. That's the way it is with the little story of the "Widow's Mite." This poor woman was crushed by the blows of life that left her without a husband, poverty-stricken, and at the mercy of other people. She is not the one we would have sought out to serve on the fund-raising committee. No, we usually look for the one who is wealthy, or the successful businessman, or the professional whose name and credibility lends an air of superior achievement. It's not that's it's necessarily wrong to use such people as examples of giving, it's just that they seldom give like the little widow.

The truth is that too many of us give our leftovers. Even people who give great sums of money and are otherwise known as open and generous people do not know what it means to give like the widow who gave the two small copper coins. Her gift was at once tiny and gigantic.

Is the lesson here that we should give our all to the Lord? I'm tempted to follow the thinking of others who soften the blow of this story by immediately saying that this isn't what Jesus is saying. It's tempting to say that Jesus is using something akin to hyperbole to make a point about giving, and I would probably agree. Still, I wonder if this is exactly what Jesus was trying to say.

I think it's worth asking if all we give is our leftovers? If so, then how can we say we've learned anything from the little widow? Leftovers are the standard gift, the norm. We make sure that there is enough to do and spend on everything we want, and then we see what's left and, often quite reluctantly, we lavish our leftovers on the Lord.

I once saw a movie in which a homeless man stood at the back door of a very fine restaurant. He waited patiently for the kitchen help to come to throw all the leftovers in the garbage dumpster. They were kind enough to allow him to pick through the half-eaten food, to scavenge a little meal for himself. I doubt that we would ever view our gifts to the Lord as half-eaten garbage, but if we only give our leftovers, what's the real difference? Only in our minds does the pitifully small, grudging gifts we dole out look like opulent, priceless presents. Leftovers are still leftovers.

What great love and faith it must take to part with all you have, for the privilege of giving to the Lord. That is, indeed, a different view of things compared to those who think of themselves first, and give their leftovers thinking they've done something great.

Today's message is probably disturbing. You ought to be writing it. I've got to go now. I need to go enjoy my blessings and think how I can do better than giving only leftovers to the Lord. I think I'm in for a struggle.

© 2001, Dr. Bill Denton

All rights reserved.

Used by permission.