Luke 21 (also Mark 12:41) tells the story of Jesus sitting in the Temple near the Temple’s treasury contribution box. The Lord had observed a number of rich people come through and drop in their bag of silver coins. “Jingle! Thunk! Jingle!” The bigger the “Jingle and Thunk” the prouder the giver probably seemed to strut away. But then along came a poor widow. You’d be excused for thinking that she wouldn’t be giving anything of note; she was clearly poor, she was clearly a widow, she had no coin bag to see, and what she was about to give was easily held in the palm of her hand. And, sure enough, when she did put in her contribution, the sound was probably so soft that it wouldn’t have been noticed at all in a noisy place like the Temple — two leptons, the smallest coin, the least valuable coin, in the Roman world. Noisy or not, however, Jesus noticed and was impressed enough to make a comment that we should sit up and take notice of: “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live.”
What made it so note worthy? There are two things I’d like to point out for us to consider.
First, there is a difference between giving some and giving all. Although the rich had put in greater actual amounts, she had put in more proportionally. The rich had given out of their disposable income, but she had given away her grocery and rent money. Most certainly God appreciates all of our gifts, when they are given with the right heart, but the widow’s gift crossed the world’s line of “good sense” by giving not 100% of her surplus had but 100% of all she had.
There is also a difference between giving when you have prospects of obtaining more in the near future and giving without prospects of getting any more. None of the wealthier givers, as far as we know, gave 100% of their money; but if they had, it still would not have been as great a sacrifice as the widow’s gift. The wealthy had prospects of earning more later in the next business deal, the next work day, the next crop, or however they made their living. Some widows of Jesus’ day could rely on family to support them, but there were other widows who had no financial prospects, being too old and a woman (Paul calls them “widows indeed” in 1 Timothy 5). The widow of this story appears to be in this latter category, so when she gave her two copper coins it was not just emptying out her purse for now, it was giving with no prospects in sight. This was a sacrificial gift founded on a deep love for God and a trust in the Him to meet her needs; this was a gift of faith and a true giving of herself.
It was these two characteristics of the widow’s gift that made it the most and the best gift received at the Temple treasury that day. By seeing the widow’s gift through Jesus’ eyes, the apostles doubtlessly felt both deeply impressed and humbled. It could not have failed to leave a life-long lesson on their discipleship.
Perhaps we, too, feel inspired and challenged by a faith and love that would prompt such financial sacrifice; maybe next week we’ll give more to the Lord in the collection plate. But you know, there are more ways to give to the Lord than in dollars and cents. There’s time. There’s effort. There’s commitment. There are skills, talents, homes and cars and every other possession given into our stewardship. There’s lots of ways to give to the Lord like the widow; but the key principle is whatever we give — little or much, 10% or 100% — should be given trustingly, lovingly, and completely.