“. . . she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.” – Mark 12:44
My uncle, Glenn Terrell, was my mother’s younger brother and the youngest of four children, thus the last to leave home. He told me once that when he was leaving to go away to college in the late 1930’s or early ‘40’s his father, my maternal grandfather, took out his wallet and handed him twenty-five dollars. It was, as my uncle described, all he had. And knowing my grandparents and how they lived, I’m pretty sure that twenty-five dollars was not just his pocket change, it was literally everything he had.
Now I must confess to being a bit of a tight-wad, and Tee would be quick to admit the same about herself. So, between the two of us we have always been pretty frugal about our finances. That is not to say we have denied ourselves in terms of living a comfortable lifestyle, nor have we held back in providing for our children. And in terms of philanthropy, we have mostly followed the principle of tithing, that is giving ten percent of our income. That makes us generous, we would like to think. Except, every time I get a little smug about that, my uncle’s story about my grandfather resurfaces, reminding me that there is a huge gap between giving ten percent and everything you have.
I love the story about Jesus sharing this fact with his disciples. They are all hanging out together near the entrance to the temple watching people file in and drop their donations into the collection basket, and some of these folks have written some big checks. About that time Jesus observes a poor widow waiting her turn to enter. “Watch this,” I can imagine him whispering to his disciples, as she takes two tiny copper coins from her purse and deposits them in the treasury basket. “I tell you the truth,” he explains, “this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.”
There are probably a thousand lessons to be learned from this little incident, but one that jumps out at me is how it redefines generosity from the substance of the gift to love in the heart of the giver. And I would like to think – although I have no way of knowing for sure – that my grandfather was demonstrating exactly that when he gave his last chick leaving the nest everything he had. “For where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” (Luke 12:34)