In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
An elderly widow walks into a crowded noisy temple. Making her way to the offering box, she quietly slips in the only coins she has. She says her prayer and she leaves. No one saw her. No one noticed her except one. Why? What’s the rest of the story?
What does Jesus want us to “hear” from this widow’s story? Two of the four Gospels (Mark and Luke) tell of an incident involving a gift that a widow gave to God. She didn’t give much. She gave just two small copper coins. So we are made to ask the question: “She didn’t give much or did she?” The story is referred to as “The Widow’s Mite.”
One day, Jesus was sitting with His disciples near the temple treasury watching people as they entered the temple and approached the offering box and dropped in their gifts. He watched people come and go all day—men, women, children, younger people, older people, healthy people, people with physical challenges, wealthy people and not so wealthy people. As He watched, I am sure, it brought Him joy. He watched as people contributed large donations all day long. Then along came a widow and in her hand, she held two small copper coins—the equivalent of a penny in today’s money.
The Bible calls the coins “mites.” These were the smallest of coins. This widow put her mites into the offering box. Jesus called His disciples to Him and pointed out what she just did. “Truly, I tell you, He said, “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their affluence, but she, out of poverty. She put in everything—all she had to live on.” This is a great story with so much depth. There are several things that this story teaches us.
First, God sees what man overlooks. It is as simple as that. God sees what many overlooks. This story is not about giving or not giving. It is a story about the spirit of giving—how we approach offering our gifts to God. That is the message being made here.
The big gifts in the temple were noticed by everybody. That is probably what the disciples were noticing as well. But Jesus saw what no one else did. He saw the humble gift of a poor widow. He thought that this was the gift the disciples needed to be aware of. The other gifts in the treasury that day made a lot of noise as they dropped into the offering boxes. The widow’s offering was heard in Heaven.
Secondly, God’s understanding of what was going on in the temple that day was different than man’s. The widow’s two mites added up to a penny according to the currency of the day. But Jesus said that she had given more than anyone else. So we have to ask, “How can that be?” Remember, all sorts of people entered and exited he temple all day long—people of great means and people of lesser means and their gifts were filling the offering boxes all day. But He said, “The widow put in everything she had—all she had to live on.” [Mk. 12:42]
Hers was the sacrifice. She wasn’t going to find more coins in between the cushions of her couch or tucked under her mattress. She gave her meal that day to God. She gave Him everything she had out of faith.
That’s a third lesson we can take from this story. Gifts for God are wrapped in faith. Here was a woman in need of receiving charity, yet she had a heart big enough to give. She understood her gift was humble, that it probably wouldn’t help the temple very much but she knew that God could use it and so she gave the last of her money, her last meal, her means of self-support to her God.
Does that mean the widow left the temple that day completely destitute, that she went home and died of starvation? No, of course not. We don’t know the details of what happened to this widow but we can be certain that she was provided for because Jesus noticed her and she spoke to His heart.
So, today let us leave here with this question. How does this widow’s spirit speak to you today? Her example was important enough to catch the eye of Jesus so we, too, should take notice when it comes to the wealth of our time, of our patience, of our love, of our compassion and caring and understanding.
Do we give as the elderly widow gave humbly willingly selflessly or do we give like all the others who entered the temple on that day from only our leftovers and only what we don’t need? When we walk with God every day, He looks for the spirit behind everything we do, everything we say and everything we offer to others. This widow’s story can change the world as we know it.