A destitute widow contributed more in the eyes of God than        
all her wealthy neighbors put together!  She gave all she had.
The others just offered what they could part with.


 

Jesus said, "Beware of the scribes, who go around in long
robes,
love greetings in the marketplaces, and the best seats
in the
synagogues, who devour widows' houses, and for a
pretense
make long prayers."

Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put
money into the treasury. Many who were rich put in much.
Then
one poor widow came and threw in two mites.

So Jesus called His disciples and said to them, "Assuredly,
this
poor widow has put in more than all those who have
given to
the treasury; 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 12:38-44 NKJV, condensed


                                        Giving It All

The temple in Jerusalem brought the entire Jewish community
together--rich and poor, wise and foolish, men, women and
children. This sacred place not only symbolized their faith, but
also their identity as a subculture living within the Roman
empire. The temple was their favorite charity. They were proud
of it's grandeur and long history.

The offering box was shaped like an ancient brass trumpet.
Some commentaries say during religious festivals there were
seven of these receptacles lined up; people giving small
amounts put their money in the trumpets at one end while
those depositing large amounts used the trumpets at the
opposite end. Plus, there was an announcer who stated
publicly what each person contributed!

We know nothing about the poor widow in this story, only
that she gave her last two cents as an offering to the temple
treasury. What was she thinking? What were her motives?
Why would she do such a thing? Was it duty? Devotion? Despair?
All these questions are unanswered and possibly irrelevant.

Mark introduced the text with a warning about the experts
who studied the sacred Scriptures and paraded their
prestigious position. In public they prayed long prayers, but
in private they preyed on the weak and vulnerable. These
were serious charges, and must have haunted the thoughts
of the guilty.

The ancient commandments of God specifically directed the
community of faith to care for and protect widows and
orphans. But that was far from the minds of the onlookers
that day. Instead they were watching with envy and
amazement as the wealthy dropped their large contributions
into the brass trumpets.

In contrast, Jesus was seeing a much bigger picture. He directed
the attention of his disciples to a destitute widow. By doing so
he also highlighted the negligence of the pious ones who
refused to accept responsibility for her well being. Just look.
This unnamed widow was surrounded by people steeped in the
holy Scriptures, yet here in the temple courtyard no one but
Jesus noticed her need. Having a widow living among them with
only two meager coins to her name demonstrated a shameful
act of disobedience to God's laws.

Instead of protecting her, they had preyed on her vulnerability
and devoured her assets. Two demeaning coins was all she had
left. With no fanfare she tossed them in. When Jesus saw it, he
hallowed her gift and his Father's house. He declared the gospel
truth that this poor widow had done more for the kingdom of
heaven than all the others who had far more to contribute that
day! They gave what they would not miss. She, despite her
desperation, was extravagant to the point of giving her all.

Did she waste her livelihood that day on a religious system full
of pompous, greedy sinners? Or does the beauty and
selflessness of her act shine like golden sunlight through the
cloud-filled Passover sky? Jesus was facing these same questions
within himself. What a bunch of sinners to waste his life on!
She had given her all and placed her future in God's hands;
Jesus would do the same.

The widow's act of giving everything she had spoke to the heart
of Jesus. How very timely, because he had come to Jerusalem to
do the exact same thing. She foreshadowed the self-giving of
Jesus on the cross. Most of us seek moderation and balance in
our lives; Jesus took the all or nothing route. Like the heroine of
this story, he would gain his life not by grasping, but by letting it
go. Who among us has ever trusted God enough to go that far!

No wonder Jesus embraced the widow lady with his words. As a
sheep approaching slaughter, he identified with her helplessness,
her bravery, her determination to give her all. He understood.
Hers was a faith in the ultimate victory of a righteous God.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker:  How good an observer are you? 
                       Who or what do you like to watch?

 

Would you be ashamed to put only 2 cents in the offering plate?
            What do you think that would feel like?

 

In part we know what motivated the scribes and Pharisees.
They wanted people to think highly of them and praise them.
            But what do you think motivated the poor widow?

 

What we see and what we don't see is important and could have
eternal significance.
            Had you been in that crowd, would you have noticed the widow?
                        Explain why or why not.
            Who would you have been looking at?
            What difference does it make who catches your attention?

 

Is there any way you can identify with this poor widow?
            What do you think her fears and hopes were?

 

How do you read the last line in this text? 
            Was Jesus praising her for putting her last cent in the offering box?
            Do you think that behavior is praiseworthy?   Or misguided piety?
Suppose Jesus was lamenting her need and the neglect of her faith
community.
            How would that change your interpretation of this story?
Jesus said nothing about her faith or her love for God?  
            Why might that be?

 

What is the challenge Jesus lays before us in this text?

 

According to Acts 6:1-4, the treatment of widows was an issue in the
early church.
            How was the matter resolved?
James 1:27 defines pure religion: "to visit orphans and widows in
their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."
            Is this how you normally think about religion?   Why or why not.
Mark 7:9-13 is another text that makes for interesting discussion on
this subject.

 

Bystanders would think this shabby, lonely woman had little or
nothing to contribute to the temple or to society as a whole. Next
time you notice someone who fits that description, take another look.
And make an attempt to see that person through God's eyes.

 

                            "WIDOW" --a poem by Susan Jones
Widow
A word to strike fear
Into the heart of every Jewish woman

Widow
A hard word synonym for defenseless
Poor. Alone. Nothing.

For in your world you were nothing without a man
Only father, husband, brother or son
Gave you validation

For you, the fear has come true and here you are
Widowed,
One of the poor ones
Life hanging by a slender thread
A tissue-thin connection
Between you and hunger
Between life and death

Poor widow
Nothing on which to come and go
Just two small coins in your hand
Enough for the next meal, perhaps

But you
Make your way bravely to the Temple treasury
Ringing with the noise of many coins
Thrown ostentatiously into brass trumpets.

Quietly you slip between the crowd
And drop in
Your offering.

Did you wonder whether anyone would notice?
Whether your two small coins would make any
difference?

Someone did see
One who rated your two coins more highly
Than all the clattering money thrown in that day by scribes
Who make stripping widow's assets an occupation

And down the years
Your act tugs at our heartstrings
And makes our overloaded purses
Heavy with shame

And any time we offer something small
We commemorate your gift as we say
"It's just a widow's mite."

Thank you, widow woman
For daring to come out of the obscurity
Of your status-less life

Refusing to let poverty restrict you
Refusing to be a nobody
Daring to be one
Who gave the most priceless gift of all

All she had.

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