I’m thinking, of course, about the story of the widow’s “mite.” It’s a story every Christian who has read the New Testament knows, but it’s a story that contains more than we often realize. Both the Gospels of Mark and Luke (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4) tell the story of when Jesus saw a poor widow contributing two small “lepta” – the smallest coins in ancient Judea – to the Temple treasury. Jesus told his disciples: “… Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others…” (Mark 12:43).
We know the poor woman’s gift was more than everyone else had given because she gave more proportionately, giving all she had. But her tiny gift was also perhaps literally more than all the others had given that day. How could this be?
Think about the rain. A single rain drop cannot accomplish much, but if it is the first drop of a downpour it can be the initiator of a flooding rain. The widow’s tiny coins may have been insignificant of themselves, but they have inspired generations of individuals to give for over two thousand years. In fact, the total amount given as a result of that “drop” may well be many times more than all the money cast into the Temple treasury through all of the Temple’s history.
Going back to our analogy, rains begin when microscopic water particles condense. When one or two tiny droplets fall, they join with others and become larger and they also bump and jostle other droplets into falling, too. Our small efforts may do likewise. Sometimes even a single drop of rain waters a tiny seedling and makes a difference. Even if our giving does not result in a rainstorm of similar actions, it may still have an effect.
It is often said that we should give, but give wisely. Usually people think that means if we are giving lots of money, we should be careful how we give it. But even if we do not have much to give, it is important to give with careful thought. If our contributions are of necessity small, we can often enlarge their effect by how or where we give.
We do this by thinking how can we give in ways that will inspire and encourage others to give – or inspire and encourage those doing the work that we are trying to support. Like the widow’s tiny coins, the total value of even the smallest gift may be far greater than the gift itself.