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.” (Mark 12:41–44, ESV)
Have you ever figured this story out? The widow gives about 1/64 of a day’s way. Peanuts. Less than peanuts. Far less than the other wealthy temple-goers. Yet Jesus honored her above them. Why? Isn’t it far better to give piles of cash, even if it’s not a sacrifice to the giver? Ask a pastor heading up a building project at his church which donor he would rather have: someone who could give a couple pennies or one who could chip in a couple grand. Hmmm.
Yet Jesus honored her above the others. Why? The text says that they gave out of their abundance. They gave in such a way that they didn’t have to forgo a steak dinner or that summer trip to the villa on the Sea of Galilee. They gave God the leftovers.
The widow gave while in smack dab in the middle of poverty. She had virtually nothing, but gave it anyway. When someone gives all that they have, that means they have . . . nothing left over (I’m pretty good with math). She gave sacrificially. She gave until it hurt. Had she no needs? Food? Housing? Was all that paid for? If so, she could have still set it aside for a rainy day or a new pair of sandals. I believe such sacrifice reveals a deeper truth about this woman — her total reliance upon God. She believed that he truly would supply all her needs (Philippians 4:19). She believed that nothing was her own and all belonged to God anyway. It was a great privilege to give to the one who had blessed her beyond words. That philosophy drove her to the offering box that day.
This story cuts to the heart of my selfishness and greed — what I want to do with what I’ve earned. Will I toss God the scraps of my leftovers or will I allow him to soften my heart to such a degree that I become overwhelmed with His generosity and can’t help but gladly give back with great joy?