My husband and I have around a dozen English-language Bibles on our bookshelves. Times certainly have changed. Prior to the printing press, only the rich could afford the hand-copied scriptures. These were in Latin. In 1408, in reaction to Wycliffe and the Lollards, England's church hierarchy had made it illegal to produce an unauthorized English Bible.
Knowing the power of Scripture to change lives, in 1523 William Tyndale asked permission to make a vernacular Bible. The Church said “no”. Undeterred, Tyndale sailed to the Continent, produced the first printed English New Testament and saw it smuggled into England.
The Church burned every copy they could find. In 1536 they finally burned Tyndale.
When Henry VIII broke with Rome, he lifted the ban on English Bibles. Coverdale's Bible, the Great Bible of 1539, the Matthew Bible and many others were the result. Eventually, in 1611, the Authorized or King James Version was produced.
But what became of Tyndale's still-illegal New Testament and the Old Testament portions he'd translated before his death?
His translations were so good that translators, from Coverdale on, copied them nearly word for word into their legal Bibles. These same Bibles, along with Greek and Hebrew scriptures, were later used to make the King James Version. Scholars today say that 70% of the KJV Bible, and over 80% of its New Testament, is Tyndale's translation.
For nearly 400 years this Bible brought people closer to God and changed their lives. Tyndale's sacrifice wasn't wasted.
I doubt that any of us, even today's Bible translators, will face the challenges, and the dangers, that Tyndale faced. But we all know the struggle of sitting alone at our keyboards with a prayer on our lips as we search for just the right words to express the message in our hearts.
The devotions we write, the novels with a spiritual message, the articles and blogs are our offerings to God, the best we can give.
We are like the poor widow putting her last two tiny coins into the temple treasury. She knew how small her offering was compared to the bags of coins others dropped in. She probably went home to her skimpy meal, if she had one, regretting that she'd not had more to give.
But Jesus saw the situation differently. The issue was not the size of her offering. It was the intent of her heart. No doubt the poor widow went to her grave never knowing that her story would inspire people throughout the ages.
Small though it may be, when we give our best work with a humble heart, we can have confidence that God will use it for his good purpose. He did that with the widow's offering and with Tyndale's. He can do it with ours.
Karen Rees, with her second-generation missionary husband Benjamin, has served in Hong Kong since 1975. Besides her involvement in the mission work, Karen loves history, quilting and writing. They have two children, Matthew and Megan, and one grand-daughter, Hadessah.
Her historical fiction novel, THE RUBY RING, is set against the backdrop of Tyndale's battle for an English Bible. The book is a 2014 Indie Excellence Awards Finalist in the Religious Fiction category.(Congratulations Karen!)
THE RUBY RING can be purchased in paperback or eBook from Amazon.com and many other online bookstores.
Visit Karen on her author page on Facebook.
Watch her book trailer, The Ruby Ring Trailer.