Wednesday, May 13, 2009

She gave all she had

And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.   And he called his disciples to him and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on." Mark 12:42-44 (ESV)

Several years ago, I was honoured to spend a week with a group of church leaders in the Blue Nile region of Sudan, sharing with them what the Bible taught about persecution and discussing with them how to put this teaching into practice in their churches.  Some of them had travelled by foot for days in the blistering heat just to attend these meetings. The hardships that many of them endured for their faith humbled me.  Their eagerness to learn energized me.  Their gratitude was something that touched me deeply, especially when I look across my office and see a gift that one of them gave me.

To appreciate the magnitude of this gift, you need to appreciate the extreme poverty that these brothers and sisters lived with on a daily basis. Their clothing was tattered and worn. Few had proper footwear.  Pages hung loosely from well-used Bibles; that is, for those who actually had a Bible and could read it.  All were thin and under nourished.  One of my translators was sick and had to rest from time-to-time throughout the day.  Not one of them lived in anything grander than a one-room mud and stick hut.

ladleAnd so perhaps you can imagine how I felt when, near the end of my time there, one of the pastors’ wives came to me and shyly handed me a crude ladle made from a gourd. She would have used such a homemade utensil to dish out food for her family and hoped that I would take it home to my family. 

Of all of the gifts that I have ever received from persecuted believers on behalf of the mission, this remains the one that I probably value the most.  This woman gave out the depths of her poverty. Her gift was a sacrifice of love. It reminded very much of the widow whose sacrifice Jesus drew attention to in Mark 12.

It is this kind of generosity that Paul also draws attention to in 2 Corinthians 8:2 when he pointed to the persecuted church in Macedonia as an example that the rich, relatively free church in Corinth was to imitate.  He noted that their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity.  They gave according to their means and then gave even more (verse 3). 

This type of open-handedness is worth a second thought as we consider how we can participate in the relief of our persecuted saints around the world, isn’t it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a living example of the definition of love (loves seeks not its own).