True value of widow’s mite

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, March 31, 2022

Jesus’ reference to a widow’s mite pointed John Hatch to God’s value system. Photos by Warren Harbeck

A “widow’s mite,” according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, is “a small money contribution made by a person who can ill afford it.” One of our long-time Cochrane coffee companions – and one of my bearded buddies – gave me a new appreciation for the true value of the mite.

John Hatch, ostrich farmer, prosthetist, and craftsman in making custom knives and leather sheathes, is also an outstanding teller of Bible stories. (See my March 19, 2015 column.) In fact, when he came up to my table at Smitty’s the other day, he was just back from the land of the Bible, Israel in all its glory.

“Warren, take a look at this,” he said. In his hand was a very tiny copper-coloured coin. “This is a widow’s mite.” He went on to explain that he had just returned from a tour of Israel, where he’d acquired the coin while visiting Bethlehem.

Clearly, there was a story here eager to be shared. I met with John for a long coffee visit a few days later. Here’s what I learned from him.

He’d been part of Cochrane’s Bow Valley Baptist Church’s recent tour of Israel. It took him to the land of Abraham and his descendants, a land rich with stories, including the story of Jesus’ encounter with an impoverished widow who contributed two mites to the temple treasury.

What’s a mite? It was the smallest coin of Jesus’ day in Israel, barely half the size of a Canadian dime, and worth less than one percent of a labourer’s wages for a day – and that was not very much.

John recounted the story as recorded in the biblical Gospel of Mark, 12:41-44. (I’ll quote the story as it appears in the King James Version, where the word “mite” is used, often translated in more recent versions as “small coin.”)

“And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”

John held out his replica of the mite. “My thought when I saw the widow’s mite was that God doesn’t value things the same way we do. He takes into account our motives and the condition of our heart when he evaluates the value of our gifts.”

Good reminder, John. God’s value system is very different from our own. So often, there’s the temptation to practice our religion in showy ways: “Look at me! Aren’t I good?”

But in these days of Lent leading up to Good Friday and Easter, Christians are especially called to reflect on Jesus’ own example in this regard. In a sense, Jesus’ own life was like the widow’s mite: in humility, He gave all. (See my Feb. 18, 2021 column.)

So, thank you, John. That widow’s mite just might be the invitation for all of us to become rich in ways that truly matter – in the ways of heart and authenticity.


© 2022 Warren Harbeck

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