And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
The story in this passage is a familiar one. Jesus makes the judgment that the two coppers coins given by the poor widow at the temple are more than the much larger sums given by everyone else. His reasoning is that the rich give large sums very comfortably out of their abundance, while the poor widow gives everything she has out of her poverty. We learn that Jesus is more concerned about the state of our hearts than on the actual amount of our giving.
As I read this passage again, two things impressed me: Jesus’ actions and the widow’s humility. First, Jesus sits down and intentionally watches people put money into the offering box. Money put into the offering box are coins, so you can tell by the sound whether the contribution is large or small. The sound of the widow’s two coins is barely audible. However, Jesus is not impressed by the loud clattering of coins announcing large contributions but is moved by the soft sound of the two small coins, because it is a reflection of the widow’s heart. The contrast between the rich with their contributions and the widow with her contribution is so important that Jesus calls his disciples over to draw attention to the widow and makes his paradoxical judgment.
The second thing that impressed me was the humility of the poor widow. Of course she is forced to be humble; she has nothing. However, she could let her pride prevent her from giving. She doesn’t have to make a show of her poverty by giving these coins which make an embarrassingly soft sound. It seems little difference would be made by these two measly coins, anyway. Also, how intimidating it would be to be among the scribes who wear long robes and bring their bags full of coins. Still, the widow goes to the Temple to give what she has. She does not let pride or fear keep her from giving from her heart. It is, probably, a heart desiring to participate in the work of the Temple, a heart desiring to give as an act of worship, a heart trusting God to provide for her.
If I were in the widow’s place, would I have the courage and humility to give such a small gift, perhaps the smallest of all and noticed by all? This is not just about money. Am I reluctant to serve because I can give only small gifts of time or talent? Am I willing to be the smallest, the least, the last?
Jesus became the least and literally gave everything he had to accomplish the greatest work, the work of defeating sin and death and bringing salvation to those who believe in him. Our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, now sits on his heavenly throne, not only watching, but reigning over the entire universe. I pray, as our hearts are continually transformed by Jesus’ reign in our lives, we will desire to give and serve in ways that are pleasing to him.
Shelley Hahn and her husband, Steve, have been members of GRC since 2015. She’s a part of Women’s Ministry and on most Tuesdays can be found working alongside several women to set up dinner for Celebrate Recovery.