There’s a phrase that is not nearly as popular today perhaps as in years past. That statement is, “I’ll throw in my two cents worth.” In most cases, the person should have kept the two cents because that two cents worth really didn’t add anything of value to the conversation. In general, two cents is pretty miniscule.
What can we get for two cents today? We probably cannot even get what used to call “penny candy.” Penny candy is now at least a dime and probably more likely a quarter. Oh! You can get a ride on Sandy the mechanical horse at Meijer, but not much more. No, we can’t get much of anything for our two cents worth. But two cents was all the woman in the Gospel story had.
She must have been pretty self conscious as she put her money in the treasury. See, today we have nicely padded offering plates or baskets. You can throw money into them and no one really knows how much or how little you’ve given. Many people today give by check which makes no sound in the plate and most churches have gone to offering envelopes that make how much is given even more quiet. But in biblical days things were different.
First off, all the money was in the form of coins – no paper money, no checks, just coins – coins. And these coins made noise! Also, they didn’t have offering plates that got passed around. They had big horn shaped receptacles where people came by and dropped their money. When the money dropped in, it made noise. It would clang and it would echo. So, of course, the rich liked to give because the loud noise would let everyone know just how generous they were.
But the poor widow, she only had her two cents worth. That amount of money would only make a poor, pitiful, “plink, plink” of a sound. I can understand why she would wait until almost no one was nearby before she gave her money. She was hoping that no one would hear how little she was giving. Besides, with all that the “fat cats” were giving, she had to question what possible difference her two cents worth could make? Let’s face it – most of us won’t even bend over to pick up a stray two cents.
She could have decided not to put anything in the collection and kept what little bit she had for herself. She could have kept it – no one would even have known – but she gave it. She gave all that she had and trusted that God could make something of it and that God would somehow sustain her. That is a lot of faith and trust – I am not sure I would have been able to do the same in her situation.
In the reading from Kings, we have a similar story. All that the widow had was just enough oil and meal to make a small piece of bread. Why couldn’t she just go home and eat it with her son and then simply die either of starvation or more quickly, die of thirst as they were in the midst of a drought? The prophet had the nerve to ask her for water. Where was she supposed to get any water? But this poor widow gave the bread and a bit of water to the prophet Elijah. It probably amounted to about two cents worth – all she had, but she gave it.
Now lets turn to another example. All this guy had was the entire universe and the immensity of all eternity. He was the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. He was and is the ruler of all. He had it all and should never have to suffer or want for anything. However, his people were suffering and in pain, they were lost and without hope. He loved the world enough that he gave it all for others. He felt our pain and ultimately gave the greatest gift possible – his very life in a gruesome and painful death.
Christ gave his life for us. When he asks us to give, he isn’t asking for anything that he himself has not already done. When he asks us to love, he knows what he speaks of. When he asks us to be willing to risk, he knows what risk and sacrifice are all about. When Christ asks us to give, he is not asking us to do anything he has not already done.
Everything we have is given to us by God. We have talents, skill, gifts, likes and dislikes. Sometimes we think that all we have is just our two cents worth. We look at our little bit and have to ask, “What difference will my little bit make?” Sometimes we think we shouldn’t even try because it doesn’t matter and besides, we need this little bit more than the church or that brother or sister in need. But God calls us to give and gives us examples like those in our lessons today.
The widow is the Gospel is lifted up because of her trust in God. She gives all she has and then trusts in God. She does not worry about her own needs; she trusts that God will see to them.
The widow in the OT lesson is cared for because she trusted in God. Not only is she saved from starving to death, but her whole household is preserved because of her faith.
So where am I going with all this? Am I suggesting that we should give everything away? In some ways that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but it is unrealistic. Does that mean that we shouldn’t even bother trying? No – we are called as a people to give as God has given to us.
Jesus placed the discipline and challenge of giving before us not to intimidate or shame us, but to challenge us to be the Body of Christ in the world – to see needs and be willing to respond; to be willing to make do with less in order to reach out to others; to trust that God will provide rather than relying on ourselves and what the world “gives” us.
Jesus wants us to live life and to live it abundantly. However, he does not want us to rely on idols like possessions and money, power, or fame, but to fully rely on God’s goodness and that God will provide. The goal of giving that is put before us is there to motivate us to be the body of Christ in the world. We need to begin to see the world through God’s eyes.
To what is God calling us today as individuals and as a congregation? Some would say that St. Augustine is just a small church and that we can’t make much of a difference in this community let alone the world. But St. Augustine has made and is making a difference, starting right here with each one of us, and proclaiming love, hope, peace and joy to a people and a world in need.
Last week, I gave you a domino to remind you how you fit into the great cloud of witnesses, the Communion of Saints. Today I give you two cents.
There is a story about how Mother Theresa wanted to start an orphanage. She was told that how could she hope to start an orphanage, all she had was two cents. She said, “For me it would be impossible, but with God and my two cents, anything is possible.” Take these two cents and let them be a challenge to you. Let us, with our two cents worth share our gifts with each other, with God, and with the world.
If you have the gift of gab, get out there and visit with those who cannot get out. If you have the gift of teaching, who might God be calling you to teach? If you have the gift of hospitality, I bet God is asking you to welcome those who come into our midst. If you are a tinkerer, maybe God is asking you to come up with some innovative ways to look at problems and find creative ways to solve them.
We may feel like we, personally or as a congregation, may not have a lot to give. We may feel like we only have a measly two cents to give. We may feel like our gift would not have any effect at all. But we would be wrong! We have our gift, we have our two cents to give. And if we are willing to give what we have, and are willing to trust in God, who knows what can happen!