The Bible has a lot to say about small coins. Take the story of the widow’s mite which revealed the widow’s might. Her generosity revealed her inner beauty and strength, which is of great worth in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:4). We see in her witness a profound devotion and love for God and amazing generosity. Her story would have been lost to us were it not for Jesus’ astute observation of this remarkable act of selfless giving.
She gave not from her wealth or her surplus or even her disposable income, but rather she gave ‘all she had to live on.’ (Mark 12:44). The story of the widow’s mite appears in Luke’s Gospel also (Luke 21:1-4) where the account is virtually identical to St Mark’s. Both Evangelists note the precise amount she gave – two small copper coins – two mites (Greek lepta). These two small coins were worth a quadrans, the smallest and least valued of all the Roman coins. These coins combined represented something like six minutes of a manual worker’s average daily wage. It was literally a pittance but in Jesus’ eyes it was a fortune, its value priceless, its worth infinite, its beauty eternal, her gift truly a treasure in God’s eyes.
The kingdom of God is full of paradox – it is an upside down world. Jesus revealed a kingdom logic – a logic definitely not of this world. The last will be first, the greatest the one who serves, the exalted humbled, the humbled exalted, the meek inherit the earth and the gift of a poor widow, rather than the pomp of a rich benefactor, heralded as a perfect example of generosity.
Small coins feature in Jesus’ teaching. The Parable of the Lost Coin highlights the effort a woman will go to seek out one silver coin out of a batch of ten (Luke 15:8-10). Ready cash was rare in ancient societies as they bartered using cloth, crops and food as currency. It is likely that the ten silver coins represented the woman’s dowry and her sole source of income should her husband die. To lose one of these coins was, for her, a disaster not worth thinking about. It is easy to imagine her intense and thorough search of her house; every crook, every cranny, every crevice. It is easy to imagine her joy and rejoicing on finding this treasured coin. The Parable of the Lost Coin, as we know, set the scene for the one of Jesus’ greatest parables, the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32).
Not many in the early Church were noble or influential (1 Corinthians 1;26) and not many were wealthy or rich. They were, however, despite this, very generous and giving. St Paul highlights the generosity of the church at Philippi. His letter to them concludes with a profound sense of gratitude and appreciation for their financial gifts to him, in support of his ministry. He calls their generous gift ‘a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.’ (Philippians 4:18).
We learn from the scriptures that generous giving isn’t about largesse or show or the esteem and affirmation of being a benefactor. Rather it is a matter of the heart and a matter of love and very often involves small coins!
St Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, records a ‘beatitude’ which could be added to the list of ‘blessed’s’ in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). St Luke records that Jesus said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35). God is more interested in the heart than anything else and loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). As Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: ‘The person who gives with a smile is the best giver for God loves a cheerful giver.’
Through the cheerful giving and rich generosity of you our readers we are able to reach out to a forgotten and often misunderstood group in society – prisoners. Through your kindness and compassion we reach out to prisoners all over the world with Bible Alive, Bibles and other Christian resources which encourage and give hope.
Bible Alive readers have a heart for prisoners; at the heart of this generosity is the simple conviction that ‘but for the grace of God go I.’
Although prisoners tend to be forgotten and overlooked they are still our brothers and sisters. The only difference between them and us is that they live out their faith behind prison walls. However, for many prisoners prison is a place of redemption, a place of grace and a place to receive God’s mercy.
Our readers give generously from the heart and prisoners receive from the heart as these letters illustrate:
‘Bible Alive makes me think how lucky I am and that there is always someone else worse off than me.’
‘Bible Alive is very easy to read.’
‘When I read it first thing in the morning it lifts my spirit and me going through the day.’
‘It is a real treat to immerse one’s self in a daily reading and prayer and something I really look forward to. Bible Alive is a great asset to any prisoner.’
‘Bible Alive embraces me into God’s family irrespective of the bars and guards that surround me.’
‘I had never seen Bible Alive before. Some ladies visited the prison regularly arranged for me to receive it. It was a simple and practical gesture but it meant a lot to me and welcomed me into the Bible Alive family and I felt one with all your other daily readers. Isolation and loneliness are real problems that effect people in prison making us feel lost and alone and hopeless. It is so important that prisoners can receive the hope and love of Jesus Christ.’
St Augustine said that we are all beggars before God. We are all in need of God’s mercy. The might of the widow’s mite, its strength and beauty, is rooted in her self-abandonment to God’s providence and her profound sense of gratitude and thanks. She gave so very generously because despite her poverty she knew that God had given to her so very generously. She had received mercy and gave mercy in return. She had received kindness and gave kindly in return; she had received compassion and gave to God with a compassionate heart. Through the power of the scriptures she is for all time a living witness of Jesus’ teaching: ‘Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.’ (Luke 6:38).