"And he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. And he said, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them'" (Luke 21:3, RSV).
I had just finished speaking in an eastern U.S. city, when I felt a tugging at my sleeve and looked down. There was a little black lady — not more than 4 feet 7 — very old and very crippled with arthritis. "Hold this." She held out her purse. She said, "Hold it still." "Yes, ma'am."
She tried to get her fingers to undo the clasp, but they just wouldn't work. So she said, "Open it." I opened it. And she went rummaging around inside, among the bits of paper and junk and food coupons — the trivia of poverty, it's been called. Eventually she got out a dollar bill, crinkled and crumpled, mended with Scotch tape and obviously much treasured. She handed it to me and said, "Take this and give it to somebody over there in Southeast Asia who needs it." "Oh look, ma'am, I couldn't do that. You may need that in case of an emergency, and I just would feel bad taking it. I would really feel better if you would keep it." She drew herself up to her full 4 feet 7, fixed me with a beady eye, and said: "Young man, your trouble is you're rich, and you no longer know the value of a dollar. If you give this to someone who's poor, they'll know what to do with it, even if you don't. So you take it and give it to someone who'll appreciate it." Though I couldn't see it at first, she knew the value of her offering in God's eyes. Mark 12:41-44: "Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing [which is practically nothing]." And He called His disciples and said (paraphrasing): "Did you see what she did? That poor widow cast in more than all the rest. Because they gave some of their abundance, but she, in her poverty gave everything she had — even all her living:"
The widow's mite shared
Herbert W. Armstrong explained in The Plain Truth several years ago just how a widow of small means can share the knowledge of this way of life with more people by contributing only the two mites, $2, 10 times a year, less than once a month. Mr. Armstrong wrote: "Our research shows that she would pay for 96 people listening to The World Tomorrow by radio a half hour every day for one year — 365 full broadcasts. But much MORE than that. Her two widow's mites contributed once a month, skipping two months in the year, would ALSO pay the cost of 70 other people viewing The World Tomorrow on television, a half hour every week for a whole year — and television reaches people much more effectively than radio. "But much more yet. In addition to this, she would also be paying the cost of seven people reading The Plain Truth every month for a year (based on the conservative estimate that each copy is read by at least three people). She would also enable six people to read Tomorrow's World (or now The Good News), every issue for a year, and IN ADDITION, also pay for two students taking the Correspondence Course 12 lessons for the year." Mr. Armstrong continued, showing that the widow's small contribution would cause nearly 1,000 people to be reached with God's message.
The feeding of the 5,000
This principle can be applied to many things besides finance. Remember the feeding of the 5,000 in John 6? A great company came to Jesus, and He said to Philip, "Where will we buy bread that these may eat?" He said it to test Philip, for Jesus Himself knew what He would do. And all Philip could think of to answer was, "Two hundred pennyworth [nearly a year's wages] of bread is not sufficient for them, that everyone of them may take a little." (We can't even afford to give them a hamburger, let alone a full meal.) "One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, 'Well, make the men sit down,'" and you know how the story ended. The point is, what they had was so insignificant, it was scarcely going to make any difference. Yet the owner was willing to give it all (that's generosity, right?). So Christ was able to do the job. He took what was available, and He fed the 5,000. So don't underestimate the value of the two fishes and the five barley loaves, or the crumpled-up dollar, to God.
Don't underestimate God
I have personally, after landing in India and going out to Calcutta and seeing those teeming millions of people, thought, There's no way the Church can reach them. But don't underestimate what God can do with a little. Our Burmese brethren are probably the poorest, the most humble, the smallest little people God has called. They have nothing. They earn nothing ($50 a year). Sometimes they own only the clothes on their backs. Yet they want to know what they can do. I tell them, "Pray, do what you can." And who knows what God may do through them and through others like them in West Africa, the West Indies, Guyana and elsewhere? Ephesians 4:16, "From [Christ] the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effective working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body."