By David Faust
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, “I tell you the truth, 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” (Mark 12:41-44).
Breakfast was skimpy as usual. A chunk of coarse, dry bread. A cup of water dipped from the public well the day before. A handful of grapes gleaned with permission from the leftover harvest of her neighbor’s vineyard. It was a simple meal, but the woman’s heart was grateful. Before she ate and drank she uttered a prayer of thanks.
When a crumb of bread slipped from her hand and fell onto the dirt floor, she hastily scooped it up. Nothing could be wasted in this one-room shelter she called home. She couldn’t be sure when or what she would eat again, but two truths lifted her spirits.
First, her circumstances did not mean God had abandoned her. She had heard that the “God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome . . . defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:17, 18, NIV 1984). Her plight looked desperate, but the woman trusted God to love and protect her.
A second realization gripped her heart. Poor as she was, she still had something to give. She clutched in her hands two coins called lepta (literally, “thin ones”)—tiny copper disks so inconsequential that most adults wouldn’t stoop and pick them up if they noticed them on the ground. Her better-off neighbors hardly considered lepta money at all, yet these tiny coins represented her entire life’s savings.
She made her way through the crowded streets toward the temple. Entering the Court of the Women, she approached the treasury where worshippers placed their offerings. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed the teacher known as Jesus of Nazareth, and her lips formed a wry smile. A few days before, he had driven the merchants and moneychangers out of the temple, and the woman was glad. This should be a house of prayer, she thought, not a place for showing off.
But some were showing off. Offerings clanged impressively into the trumpet-shaped collection boxes, calling attention to the donors’ generosity. The widow sought no such attention. With a prayer of faithful surrender, she dropped her two lepta into the treasury. They didn’t make a sound.
The only one who noticed her gift was Jesus. He noticed how all the people gave their offerings. He noticed what was kept as well as what was given. He noticed not only the size of the gift, but the sacrifice it represented.
Leaving the temple, the widow made her way through the crowded streets. She didn’t know how the Lord would provide when she returned to her empty house, but a strange peace welled up in her heart.
And somehow she didn’t feel poor anymore.
1. Do you know someone like the generous widow who gives her all for the Lord?
2. How do you think the Lord might assess your own generosity?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for May 12, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
2 Corinthians 4
1 Samuel 11—13
2 Corinthians 5
1 Samuel 14
2 Corinthians 6
1 Samuel 15, 16
2 Corinthians 7
1 Samuel 17, 18
2 Corinthians 8
1 Samuel 19, 20
2 Corinthians 9
1 Samuel 21—23