She took her place at the back of the line. An imposing gentleman—yes, he was certainly a gentleman; she could tell by the fine cut of his robe and the straightness of his shoulders—blocked her view up the line. She was careful not to shuffle too far when the line shifted. She might accidentally touch that fine fabric. He would feel the nudge and most certainly glare at her. He shook his coin pouch, again gauging its heft and contents. Scanning the crowd, he snatched a few coins from the pouch and stuffed them into his pocket. Still there was quite a jangle in that sturdy bag.
The sonorous clank of many coins colliding with the pile already inside the offering box cut short her observations. No matter that the gentleman in front blocked her view. She kept count of her place in line by the rattling of coins. Most wealthy people—she knew this from long years of observation—gave in one of two ways. Either they slowly dropped each coin into the box separately, making a show of the length of time it took to give, or they dropped their coins into the box all at once, for maximum sound effect. Those of the second type sometimes even bumped the box with their hip at the same time to create a bigger sound.
She pulled her thoughts back and resumed the mental conversation she had started before rising that morning. Most would call it prayer, but it didn’t have any of the formality that ornamented temple prayers. God was her ever-present companion, a best friend, a confidant since before her husband died all those years ago. She recalled His comfort in the difficult days of the funeral…
As she neared the box, she pulled two coins from inside her belt. No need for a money bag with only these two, worn bits of copper. “Oh Father,” her silent prayer continued, “I love you more than my own life.” The corners of her mouth curled up. “That soup being sold on the corner smelled really good. Fresh squash mixed with cinnamon, wasn’t it? I would rather praise you than fill my stomach.
“I didn’t sleep well last night; the bed bugs are getting worse. These two coins might buy enough soap to clean my bed and clothes, but I choose to honor You rather than to have a restful night or to give off a pleasant smell.
“Because I couldn’t sleep, I finished the last candle before sunrise this morning. You already know that, don’t you? Without another, I won’t be able to read Torah tonight, but that’s okay. I’ll just recite that one part in Deuteronomy:
‘See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. … Now choose life…’*
Oh, yes, that’s one of my favorites!
“Yes, my Lord, I know you care about me and your Law protects me as a widow. You would never demand this, but I give you these coins—everything I have—because I prefer your glory to my gain. You are my Jehovah-Jireh. You know what I truly need, and you will provide it. I don’t do it to see what You will provide or for any sort of blessing but simply to remind myself that nothing compares to Your glory. I want this, because more than anything else, I want You.”
The gentleman in front of her dropped his coins into the box all at once, just as she had anticipated. He hurried off, already focused on his next bit of business. She stepped in front of the box, conscious of the long line behind her. Her hand hesitated just for a moment, then the two small coins fell in among the rest. The thickness of the box muffled any sound they might have made.
As she turned to go, a man sitting across the hall caught her eye. A different sort of man.
And she knew her gift was magnified before the Father.