“Sitting across from the offering box, Jesus was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, ‘The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.’” (Mark 12:41-44, MSG)
Jesus says the widow put in more than all the other Temple goers and contributors that day.
In terms of simple math, it seems Jesus is wrong.
Of course, Jesus isn’t talking in terms of simple mathematics, is he? We are meant to understand that—in terms of monetary value—the widow actually put in less than anyone else that day. No one else brought such a humble offering. No one else dared drop only a pittance into the coffer. The widow’s offering, two small copper coins, is contrasted with “the “large sums” deposited by “many rich people” (Mark 12:41-42).
And yet, Jesus said there was something about the widow’s offering that made it more valuable than all the others, combined.
The widow herself is contrasted with the scribes. They wear long robes and they seek out VIP treatment. The scribes like to seem important. Their self-worth is inextricably linked to what others think of them. When other people treat them like they are important it makes them believe they are important.
Not so for the widow.
In offering everything she has to God, the widow is saying, “God, I’m not much, but I’m all yours.”
The scribes might seem like VIP’s, but they lack the security the widow has. They worry that they aren’t enough and so they accumulate more and more, trying to increase their personal value.
The widow has no need for this kind of pretense.
Someone once said that Jesus could sniff out hypocrisy like a well-trained dog can sniff out drugs (Bruce Prewer). Maybe the reason Jesus doesn’t smell any hypocrisy on the poor widow is that she has already sniffed her own baggage.
She doesn’t have to pretend to be someone she’s not. She’s loved by God and she knows it.
I want to live with the freedom the widow has.
Usually when we read about widows in the Bible, they are presented as helpless people, victims of oppression. That is true in this passage from Mark, too. She is, after all, among the group being swindled by the scribes who “devour widows’ houses.”
And yet, she is free to offer her whole-self to God. She makes this offering without worrying that it isn’t enough because she knows she is loved by God.
The same is true for me, and for you. Like the widow, we are wholly loved for who we are. We don’t need the false piety of the scribes. We don’t need fancy clothes to make us look important. We don’t need to pray long prayers to make it seem like we are close to God.
Jesus says the widow contributed “out of her poverty” (Mark 12:44, NRSV). That’s really good news considering how little we can offer God. Talk about finding a gift for the one who has everything?!
God is the Creator of everything, seen and unseen. What could we possibly give God?
There’s only one thing I can give God that God doesn’t already have … my self.
There’s only one thing you can give God that God doesn’t already have … your self.
The widow gets that. She gives up her money, but really she’s offering her whole self, humble as it is, to God. And for that reason, Jesus says she put in more than anyone else that day.
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