Some women in the Bible are only described in a few verses, meaning we don’t always know a lot about them. However, each person and story has been intentionally placed in the Bible for a reason–we can learn something from them. Even though there are only a few details about the poor widow, mentioned both in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4, we know her story is important. So let’s take a look.
Painting by James Tissot (French, 1836-1902).
The Widow’s Offering: Mark 12:41-44
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
How would Jesus have known that the rich people were putting large amounts?
In the temple there were 13 offering boxes and at the top of the boxes was a trumpet-shaped metal piece. When money was dropped into the spout, you could hear the money fall into the box and the trumpet shape would amplify the sound. I wonder if the poor widow’s meager two coins made a sound at all. . .
What made her unique? (Describe her)
- She was widow (someone whose husband has died).
- She was poor.
- She only gave two coins. These two copper coins were the smallest form of Roman money (like pennies are for us today).
That’s not much detail, but when we explore the historical and cultural traditions of the time, we can glean a bit more.
When a husband died, his wife and children were left with no income. There was no one to provide housing, food, clothing and money. The responsibility would fall on extended family (if there were any in the area).
You may imagine the widow as an old woman. But interestingly enough, many artists have portrayed her as a young mother, carrying one or more children. While we don’t know her age, imagining her as young mother means that she would have been was even more poor and destitute than an older widow. An older woman would have grown children (with jobs) who could support her. A younger mother would have no grown children to rely upon and wouldn’t be able to take in work if she had to care for her little ones. I believe this insight shows how her gift was even more heartfelt (because she had less to give).
Did she allow God to fill her for His purpose?
Explain how she was/wasn’t used for His purpose.
- She gave only a small amount, but it was all she had. Jesus said she gave more than all the others because she gave from her heart.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#99cccc” class=”” size=”14″]“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 6:7 [/pullquote]
- Her sacrifice was greater because she was poor. She teaches us that God looks at our heart (at our motivation).
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#99cccc” class=”” size=”14″]“The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” -The Message [/pullquote]
So what’s our takeaway from the poor widow? How does that apply to us today? Was it really all about money? No, I think we can withhold from God in other areas of our lives. Consider:
- Do you grudgingly go to church on Sundays, grumbling because you can’t sleep in late?
- Do you skip reading your Bible or praying because “you are just too busy” or read because you will feel guilty if you don’t?
- Do you withhold love and kindness from people who annoy you?
- When it comes to your time, money, talents and love for others, are you holding back or are you doing it joyfully with a pure heart? Are you a cheerful giver?
Key scripture: Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
Leave a comment: What are some ways you can do a better job cheerfully giving to God?