If you have spent any time near my ministry you have probably heard or seen the phrase “Two Penny.” This phrase comes from a story in the Bible that has greatly shaped my life. It’s the branding I put on all my creative work. It is an attitude and outlook I want to have with all my life. The story is not a parable; it actually happened, and it can be found in Mark 12 and Luke 21. A poor widow, going to the temple, dropped in two small copper coins. Jesus remarked that she had given more than everyone else who had gone into the temple – because she had given everything she had to live on. It was an act of incredible devotion and radical trust. This is how I want to live my life; I want to hold nothing back.
This story is connected, in my mind, to the story of Cain and Abel. The rejection of the sacrifice of Cain has always haunted me. Why wouldn’t God accept an offering from someone? Cain was bringing an offering, isn’t that good enough for God? No. It may be hard to understand…but the answer is NO. Cain’s offering wasn’t good enough because Cain did not bring his best. And there are times when God will not accept our leftovers – He deserves our best. To give God less than my best lowers the worth of God; it does damage to my soul. Tragically, rather than bring God his best and change his actions and attitude, Cain murdered his brother and never took responsibility for what he had done.
As a teenager, reading these stories, I made a choice: I would not give the best of my life to myself and the leftovers to God. That is what I had been doing up until that point. My youth pastor at the time constantly challenged me to give God my best. I had never even considered going into ministry because I knew I had talent, and I wanted to make a lot of money. Some of that money would go to God, of course, after I had bought most of what I wanted. I wasn’t an immoral person, just a self-centered one. The story shaped me and helped me realize that God desires my best; God expects nothing less than my best. And for me that meant a lot.
I’ve known since a young age that God had given me gifts and talents. My senior pastor like to say to me, “From those who have been given much, much will be expected.” I played four sports in high school and made all league my senior year. I had straight A’s in school, graduated college in three years, summa cum laud, and achieved high honors in my master’s degree. Every church or youth group I have worked in has grown a lot. Like Paul in the Philippian or Corinthian letters, I can list out my accomplishments, but like Paul I started to see these lists as foolishness or a waste. Everything is worth nothing compared to the greatness of knowing Jesus and being known by Him, being transformed by Him. God has given me these tools and talents so that I could give back to Him and bring others closer to Him. I am no better a person because I have tools in my hand. The tools have been given for a reason. The goal is to live a Two Penny life, to give Him everything and hold nothing back. To trust Him with all that I am, all my time, and even my rest – that is a huge act of trust. This is a story that has shaped me. It is a story, and an attitude, that I tried to instill in other people. This story has changed my life.