At the synagogue, a poor widow dropped two pennies in the offering horn. (Luke 21:2)
On another day in the home of Mary and Martha where Jesus was visiting, Mary took a e-ounce jar of expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet. (John 12:3)
These two stories remind us how backwards we think about value. The widow's two coins were worth less than a penny. She called her gift “nothing” because she compared it to what she could not give. But Jesus knew she gave what the others did not with all their clanging coins. She gave her heart.
On a different occasion, Mary brought an expensive jar of perfume, essence of nard imported from the Himalayas, worth a year’s wages. She gave it to Jesus in an unusual and scandalous way. She poured it on his feet. The gasp must have been as audible as the fragrance was powerful. Jesus saw her heart, too. The gift of her heart was incalculable.
Financial counsellors would reprimand both women because they determine worth in terms of buying power. Judas revealed this lean when he called Mary’s gift a complete waste. The disciples with Jesus in the Temple probably didn’t even notice the widow until Jesus called their attention to her.
How do you compare the meager gift of last coins with the extravagance of expensive perfume? There is only one way and that is to look at the heart, which we cannot do. But Jesus can. To him, what the widow gave was of equal value to the extravagance of Mary because each gave from their heart. Careful and restraint were not in either of their heart’s vocabulary. Jesus knows the generous heart will always find a way to give. He knows that a closed heart will always calculate. How does he know this? Because he came to give his heart to us. All of it. To accept his heart-gift, we have to give all of ours to him. A generous heart grows from that exchange.
What do you call generous that Jesus calls meager? What do you call meager that Jesus calls generous? What will you do about that difference today?