The Widow and Her Large Offering!
Bible Background: Background is especially important for this short scene. The setting is the Temple in Jerusalem. In Mark, the setting is also the final weeks of Jesus’ life. He has gone to Jerusalem to confront the ‘system’. This will result in his death on the cross.
Digging Deeper: 1. In chapter 12, Jesus is asked about the Greatest commandment. He responds with, 1st-Love the Lord your God. 2nd-Love your neighbor as yourself. In the paragraph just prior to this, Jesus has issued a warning to avoid the “Scribes” (experts in the religious law), who “like to walk around in long robes, and be greeted with respect…and have the places of honor…They devour widow’s houses!” How do we understand that phrase? It’s hard. It sounds like Jesus is invoking the voices of the Old Testament prophets who often cried out against rich people’s lack of concern for the poor.
2. The Temple ‘treasury’ would be the spot where large, beautiful, metal containers sat where temple-goers would deposit their offerings and temple taxes. This was probably quite the spot to “people-watch!”
3. “Many rich people put in large sums”…as one might hope they would! There’s nothing wrong with people giving large offerings! Then a poor widow (a widow would typically be quite poor in those days), puts in the two smallest copper coins (called ‘mites’), worth a very small amount…perhaps enough to buy a loaf of bread. Jesus notices her and her actions. He points this out to the disciples.
4. “Truly I tell you, this poor widows has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury….all she had to live on!” By comparison, the rich contribute out of their abundance and always have more left over.
5. So, what do we make of Jesus’ comments? Often the widow’s gift is held up as a moving example of sacrificial giving. She may not have much to show her love for God, but she’s loving God with everything she has! We don’t know if her giving brings her joy, or if she’s doing this out of obligation. But she sure is giving!
6. This widow could also be demonstrating what Jesus will soon do. He too will give his whole self, everything that he has, on the cross! In truth, he’s already been giving his whole self to the sick and the outcast and to God! Jesus told the crowds: If you want to be my followers, take up your cross and follow me! He knows what total commitment requires. He asks that of us. How do we faithfully respond?