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The Widow's Mite: a Convenient Excuse or a Massive Challenge?

By David Saint | 10 January 2017 | Comments (3)

Widow's Mite


As a fundraising consultant, a lot of my work involves advising churches on raising money for major building projects, often costing hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds. Part of the process includes a challenge to church leadership teams and congregations to ‘step up’ to this particular plate, and to consider personal gifts far in excess of what they are used to.


Reactions can vary but without fail someone will challenge me back with – well, admonish really: “But we shouldn’t ignore/forget/look down on the Widow’s Mite.”


In making this point my critic is usually suggesting that modest contributions are just as valuable as huge ones. They could not be more wrong!


First of all, no major building project is ever achieved just through ‘modest contributions’. The Pareto Principle or 80:20 rule almost always applies—80% of the money comes from 20% of the givers. Large scale projects need significant levels of giving – much more than people are generally used to when making their regular weekly offering.



But of far greater significance is the lesson Jesus drew from the generosity he observed in the temple. He made no reference to ordinary folk making modest contributions – he only drew attention to the rich making their gifts, and by contrast to the widow giving her two mites. He is quoted as saying “Truly I tell you, 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.”


While it is true that Jesus said that the widow had given ‘more’ than the rich people, I don’t think for a moment he was suggesting that her gift had had a larger impact on how much was in the treasury. I think his point was that her sacrifice was total—she gave all she had.


Before writing this piece I went back to the Bible passage to refresh my memory, and I was powerfully struck by two things that I hadn’t noticed before in the ‘Story of the Widow’s Mite’. . Firstly, it isn’t a story or parable – this is something Jesus actually witnessed. And secondly this isn’t about the widow’s mite (singular) – she had two mites. So she had a choice. With one mite it was all or nothing. But with two mites in her hand …. how easy (and perhaps wise) might it have been to give one mite (half of all she had) to the treasury, and to keep the other mite for her own needs (which were clearly substantial). But no, she chose to give them both. She gave all she had. Open-handed, open-hearted.


This is a witness account with a radical, counter-cultural message and far from offering a convenient excuse for modest giving it throws us a massive challenge: how open-handed and open-hearted are we prepared to be?


Read more like this:

The Secret of Contentment

The Greater Changes Comes From the Main and the Plain




Christina Yates

January 16, 2017 6:44 PM
Our church does not hold fund raising events for the church use, we do support charities and happily allow me to raise funds for Macmillan by holding a coffee afternoon, we have raised funds in the past for IMIC a Brazilian charity housing street children, we also donate 10% of each month's giving to a specific charity so we are a giving church.

We pray when we find we need money for a large scale project, work on the church, the pastor's house or anything which requires funds which we might not be able to afford. We find that the money always comes in, a legacy, a lump sum from an anonymous giver, it seems to happen without fail. We spend money but when the treasurer reports on finances we are still in a healthy position.

We are not a huge congregation but we manage to do what is needed and we are growing, with young families being among the new members. I have been a member for over 25 years and I love the way my church is going. We have a playgroup on a Monday morning which is free to attend, that is growing and several children & parents are now regularly attending on a Sunday. We run a job club on a Friday which is part of the CAP organised items.

I believe that the Widow's mite, giving everything, is worth more than a thousand pounds given by a multi millionair, I bet some of them even use that as a tax writeoff!

Andrew Betts

January 18, 2017 9:40 AM
Thank you for this insight David. Reminds me of those occasions I

Michael Boler

January 19, 2017 12:45 PM
Thank you for your thoughtful reflection on the Widow's Mites. It is a counter intuitive lesson on how God measures our generosity. He measures it not by how much we give but by how much we withhold. The widow withheld nothing, her giving was complete.

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