It had been a rough day for Jesus in the temple.
First, the Pharisees tag teamed with the Herodians to snag him in a trap about paying taxes to Caesar.
Then it was the Sadducees, with a cockamamie story about seven brothers dying one after another, each marrying the left-behind widow. Their “gotcha” question was, “At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
Before leaving the temple he sat down and watched people tossing their offerings into the treasury. “Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny” (Mk. 12:41, 42).
We have no coinage as small as her two coppers; the closest we could come would be to drop two pennies in the plate.
“This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others,” he said. “They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
Her gift has inspired more generosity than all those other gifts combined. The late Burton Coffman noted that her influence “has constructed many a church house and subscribed many a budget.”
R.C.H. Lenski wrote: “As he sat and watched over against the treasury chest in the Temple court, so he now looks down on every giver and every gift offered in his church.”
Dr. John Broadus, renowned preacher of the last half of the 19th century, came down from his pulpit one Sunday as the collection was being taken and joined those who were passing the plates. He watched people as they gave. Some were upset, some were ashamed, all were surprised.
Returning to his pulpit Broadus said, “My people, if you take to heart that I have seen your offerings this day and know just what sacrifices you have made and what sacrifices you have not made, remember that the Son of God your Savior, goes about the aisles with every usher and sees with his sleepless eye every cent put into the collection by His people.”
Then he read them the story of the “widow’s mite.”
This widow was an anonymous giver who had neither affluence nor influence. No one knows her name, but everyone knows her story.
It isn’t the amount of the gift that matters, but the cost of the gift to the giver; not the size, but the sacrifice; not the bigness of the gift, but the bigness of the heart. Some are rich in money; some are rich in love and faith. Measured by love and faith this poor widow was the richest person in the room.
It’s difficult to read this story without stabs of guilt.
But don’t read more into it than is there …
Jesus didn’t condemn the rich, or even criticize them; he just compared them and said by comparison the poor widow gave the greatest gift.
He didn’t imply that the large gifts were unimportant. They were very important; essential to the upkeep of the temple.
Nor did he say, “Give like this widow.” He just made an observation about her—just as he does about each of us.
He occasionally warned about the dangers of wealth, but only once did he tell a person to sell everything he had and give the proceeds to the poor (Mk. 10:21). And he did that because he knew in that case the man’s money meant more to him than the man’s Lord.
This was Jesus’ last visit to the temple; his last observation in the temple; and his last word in the temple: “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others … she … put in everything.”
Maybe he was touched by what she gave—all she had—because three days from now he would do the same.