How was the poor widow’s offering great?

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By BibleAsk Team


The story of the poor widow’s offering, found in the Gospel of Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4, resonates deeply with many because it highlights the profound value of sacrificial giving. In this narrative, Jesus contrasts the ostentatious contributions of the wealthy with the humble gift of a destitute widow. Despite her seemingly insignificant offering, Jesus declares it as surpassing all others in greatness. To understand why the poor widow’s offering was great, we must delve into the context, symbolism, and implications of her act of generosity.

Contextual Understanding

The scene unfolds in the temple, a place of worship and commerce in ancient Judea. Jesus, amidst teaching his disciples and the crowds, observes people depositing money into the temple treasury. Many affluent individuals make sizable donations, attracting attention with their elaborate displays of wealth.

However, amidst this conspicuous philanthropy, Jesus directs his disciples’ gaze towards a poor widow who quietly approaches the treasury. Two mites were considered a very small offering for a mite was a coin worth a fraction of one U.S. cent. The mite or lepton was the smallest Jewish copper coin in circulation. So, two mites amounted to 1/64 of a Roman denarius, a day’s wage at Jesus’ time (Matthew 20:2).

Symbolism of the Widow’s Offering

  1. Contrast with the Rich: The juxtaposition between the rich donors and the impoverished widow serves to emphasize the essence of true generosity. While the wealthy give out of their abundance, the widow offers her two mites, a sum so meager it barely registers in monetary value. Yet, her contribution holds profound significance. Jesus adds about the rich, “for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12: 44). The rich had excess of money; they had more than they actually needed. They gave from their left-over. Therefore, the value of their gifts in terms of love and devotion was little because their gifts were not given sacrificially.
  2. Sacrificial Giving: The widow’s offering symbolizes sacrificial giving. Unlike the wealthy whose donations do not affect their lifestyle, the widow gives all she has. Her two mites represent her entire livelihood, demonstrating her complete trust in God’s provision.
  3. Faith and Devotion: The widow’s act reflects her deep faith and devotion to God. Despite her poverty, she willingly offers what little she possesses, showing her reliance on God’s grace rather than worldly wealth. The widow gave all that she had literally which is an evidence of the maximum possible love and devotion to God. She did not know where her next meal was coming from. Nerveless, she didn’t want this reality to prevent her from giving to God for she rejoiced in giving. And God loves the cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

The Greatness of the Widow’s Offering

  1. Heart of Generosity: The greatness of the widow’s offering lies not in its monetary value but in the disposition of her heart. While others give out of their surplus, she gives sacrificially, embodying the spirit of selflessness and generosity.
  2. Recognition by Jesus: Jesus, the ultimate judge of hearts, acknowledges the widow’s act as exemplary. He affirms that her offering, though small in quantity, surpasses all others in greatness because of the sincerity and sacrificial nature behind it. Jesus taught by this example that God doesn’t look at the amount of the gift but on the motive that moves the giver to give. The Lord is interested only in the measure of love and devotion that the gift represents, not on its economic value. In the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:15), we learn that God rewards men, on the love that prompts them to act, their willingness to do His will, and their sacrificial service.
  3. Eternal Significance: The widow’s story serves as a timeless lesson on the nature of true generosity. It transcends temporal wealth and highlights the eternal value of giving from the heart.

Implications for Believers

  1. Challenge to Priorities: The story challenges believers to reevaluate their priorities concerning wealth and generosity. It calls into question the prevailing notion that significance is measured by the size of one’s possessions or contributions.
  2. Call to Sacrifice: The widow’s example compels believers to embrace sacrificial giving. It prompts reflection on whether our giving truly reflects a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others and the kingdom of God.
  3. Trust in God’s Provision: The widow’s act exemplifies unwavering trust in God’s provision. It serves as a reminder that God values the motive behind our giving more than the amount, and He is faithful to honor genuine acts of faith.

In conclusion, the story of the poor widow’s offering challenges conventional notions of greatness and redefines it in the context of sacrificial generosity. Her seemingly insignificant gift carries immense significance in the eyes of Jesus, who recognizes the purity of her heart and the depth of her faith. The widow’s offering transcends monetary value, serving as a timeless example of selfless devotion and trust in God’s provision.

As believers, we are called to emulate her example, embracing sacrificial giving and prioritizing the condition of our hearts over the size of our contributions. The spirit of generosity is the spirit of Christ and the spirit of selfishness is the spirit of the devil. The character of the Christian is to follow the example of Christ who gave His life to redeem mankind (John 3:16).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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