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The Widow’s Mite

There’s a story that when the Statue of Liberty was being renovated and restored in the early 1980s and money was being solicited from donors across the country, an envelope showed up with two dimes in it and a note from a young boy, saying: “This is my lunch money for today, but I am sending it for the Statue of Liberty. Please use it wisely.”

If true, this is a modern version of the story of the “widow’s mite” (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4), in which a poor widow donated two small “mites,” the lowest denomination coin in the realm, to the Temple treasury.  “Calling his disciples to himself,” Mark tells us, “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’”

It’s a lovely story, generally well known and well-liked.  I sometimes worry that we like it so much because it’s one of those stories where the rich might seem to get their comeuppance and the poor (whom we associate with ourselves, even though we live in the richest country on earth) get praised.  “Yes, poor people like me are going to heaven and those rich arrogant jerks will finally get what’s coming to them.”

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