“Please don’t be mad I don’t have much. I’m homeless. God bless.”
[by Dean Smith] These were the words of a short note written on an offering envelope containing an 18 cent donation deposited in the offering plate at the First United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, during a recent Sunday service.
Charlotte has a bustling financial center. Bank of America is headquartered there, as is Well Fargo’s east coast headquarters.
Located downtown, the church is near the financial district, but is also near a homeless shelter. It is not uncommon for a few homeless people to attend services as the church provides a breakfast Sunday morning for anyone interested in joining them.
In an interview with USA Today, Rev Patrick Hamrick believes it was a homeless person who donated the money. He said:
“I think this represents a sacrificial gift … And for us, we acknowledge that the individual gave out of his poverty, proportionally a big deal.”
The homeless man had nothing, and gave what he could and in God’s eyes his sacrifice was great.
This is exactly the point Jesus made when he saw a woman giving two small coins.
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. 2 And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. 3 And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; 4 for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4 NASV)
Jesus said that the widow gave the most, because having paid for their food, clothing and toys, the rich give out of their surplus, but this woman was giving out of what she had to live on — her donation cost her.
The woman gave two coins which in the Greek were called Lepton — a term generally used to describe the smallest fractional amount of a currency.
How much was a Lepton?
Mark provides a bit of an idea when he adds that she “put in two [b]small copper coins, which amount to a [c]cent” (verse 42 NASV). The NASV footnotes the “cent” providing this definition: “Gr quadrans; i.e. 1/64 of a denarius.”
The two coin donation amounted to 1/64 of a denarius. A denarius was considered a day’s salary for a laborer as we see in Mathew 20:2 and the International Bible Encyclopedia adds it was also a day’s pay for a soldier.
So how much was the widow giving in today’s currency?
In his article, How much was the widow’s mite?, Mark Taylor writes:
“If today’s wage for a laborer in the USA is $15 per hour, that comes to $120 for an 8-hour day. At this rate, 1/64 of a day’s wage is $1.88. Round it up to $2.00, and we could say that the widow dropped two dollar-coins into the collection box. That feels very different from “two coins worth only a fraction of a penny.”
For God it is not the amount you give, but rather the sacrifice. In God’s eyes, a homeless person’s 18 cent donation or a widow with a home giving two dollars is greater than many giving thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars and in some instances millions.