Put in your two cents: The economy of God.

by Dr. Scott Dooley, Hospital Administrator

The story of the poor widow is not a parable.  It actually happened (and is recorded in both Mark and Luke).  It says:

“But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.” Mar 12:42-44  (NIV)

Now I always thought Jesus was being a bit sentimental. I thought obviously the others put in more, Jesus is just speaking metaphorically, in that it was more meaningful to God because she gave it all.  I thought the lesson was just that we were to give it all and not look for glory when we give sacrificially. 

15 years of work in a mission hospital and seeing countless bush churches… and 8 years in administration dealing with finance and budgets has convinced me how narrow my old view was.  I am now convinced that Jesus is being literal.  God will literally do more with the two cents of obedient sacrifice given in love, than all the wealth of the world. We know it, but we don’t always live it out- God doesn’t need our money.  Things the world considers precious like gold and diamonds – God made them.  If He wanted He could just turn each church parking lot into gold and fund every desire of the church.  In fact, many people think that this is the final irony of the heavenly streets made of gold.  What we chase here, is just pavement in heaven!

So what does God value?  What is the economy of the kingdom?   

1 Jn 3:16 (NIV)  “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”  

Jesus paid the price to reconcile us to God.  He gave us life.  He gives us all things.  Nothing we give is really a sacrifice at all – it was all His.  When we give sacrificially we live out our faith to ourselves and others.  We trust God.  We are only giving back what is His.  We express His love to others by giving from what we have received.  We can be generous because we believe He will take care of His church and He will take care of us. He is limitless.

I have once again been reminded of this as we prepare for future work and witness teams.  A friend said he worried sometimes that people will see that the hospital is building these giant buildings in our infrastructure project and teams will come to make our smallest ancillary house for a security worker or a guy who digs ditches and mows lawns.  Some teams have felt like they are just putting in two cents compared to the wealth being contributed by other partners.  I said what I always say, “the key is that one doesn’t happen without the other”.  It is true, we have done a lot of projects… but every one of them has started with the people of God stepping out with compassion, faith, and sacrificial love.

I always think of one particularly powerful example.  We had tried for a few years to get donors for a multi million-dollar project that was critical to keeping the hospital functional.  The church gave and over time we got enough donations to try to begin to piece together a solution.  It wasn’t pretty by the world’s standards, but we kept praying and everyone kept praying with us that God would use all these “two cents” put together.  During this time we got a chance to apply to a major donor.  It turned out every step I would find things that technically disqualified us.  Repeatedly as we spelled out each problem, the donor openly made exceptions.  We even showed them our original plan to piece together the failed system.  The truth is we didn’t really qualify but we got approved for the money.  I had a phone call with the fund manager and I was dumfounded.  After a long conversation I just blurted out that I didn’t really understand how they gave us the funds without any of the technical and legal requirements we were supposed to have.  He said that they had seen our work and had no way to explain it.  There was no one like us.  He said, “we have seen who your church is.  You are the people that get it done.  You bring in experts and volunteers and people you couldn’t possibly pay what they are worth.  You get more done with little than we have ever seen.  We don’t know how you would have done it, but somehow you would have pulled together a working system with the little you had.  We just want to come along side and help you do it well.”  I can’t count how many times since then something like this has been said to us by foreign aid representatives, ambassadors, NGO’s, and PNG and foreign government officials. 

               More importantly, this happens not just in projects but in the hospital for the last 50 years.  Through church channels we have received alabaster funds, work and witness teams, short and long-term missionaries, administrative help, governance, and literally tons of donated medicine and equipment, without which we could not run.  These range from individuals knitting baby hats, to churches doing roller bandage drives, to partnerships with Nazarene Hospital Foundation, Heart to Heart International, or Samaritan’s Purse – the latter may send millions of dollars’ worth of medicines… but each of these is just giving what they can out of obedience.  This is what makes our hospital function long after the government has run out of medicines and supplies.  People travel sometimes days to get to us because we have a reputation for excellent and compassionate care.  They want to find hope in a place that feels like it is losing hope… and we are glad to share with them the ultimate hope found in relationship to Jesus Christ!

Church giving builds things that foreign aid is not likely to fund because it isn’t much to put their name on… but to us it is critical because it allows our Christian brothers and sisters to sacrificially serve here.  We also use church donations for key matching funds (many projects you can’t ask for money until you show that you have infested in it too.  When the church does that, it exponentially compounds what is given).

I say it all the time, “It is true that we build better quality at a fraction of the cost of any contractor in the country, but ultimately major donor’s don’t invest in our projects just because we are great at building things, but because we are a great hospital… and we are a great hospital because of the church.”  It is really all those people giving their last two cents -from the elderly lady I have written with who has supported this hospital literally since its inception, to the long-term missionaries who have given their lives to this work, to the visiting work team who pay their own way here.  This is what makes the hospital run.  It is what makes us unique.  It is why others partner with us – to be a part of something that works in a place where frankly it seems like nothing does.  More importantly we believe because it is the faithfulness of God’s people that God opens the floodgates of heaven to provide what we need to see His Kingdom come – right here in PNG.  Every year we see hundreds of patients and project workers come to Christ and new churches are planted.  We see lives changed and others ready to add their two cents too!

God is work – two cents of obedience at a time!

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