A Poor Widow by Scarlett Stough


The woman entered the court of women in the temple. As she approached one of the trumpet-shaped offering boxes, she watched others put in more coins than she would see in a year. She hoped no one would notice how meager her offering was--just two copper coins.*

She had nothing else to give. Only God knew where her next meal would come from. She trusted God to hear her prayers and provide; she dropped the coins into the box and moved on.

But someone had noticed. Jesus pointed her out to his disciples. He wanted them to see the contrast between the wealthy, self-important religious leaders and the act of faith of the widow who had given all she had. 

Earlier that day in the temple, Jesus warned his disciples against the unscrupulous practices of many of the religious leaders**

While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.” (Luke 20:45-47 NIV)
In contrast, one of those widows donated all she had into one of the thirteen collection boxes***, each of which was designated for a specific purpose.
As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4 NIV
Is it pleasing to God for one group of people to grow wealthy at the expense of another group of people who grow poorer with every donation? Listen to what God said through the prophet Zechariah:
And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think [“devise” NASB] evil of each other.’ 

But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry. (Zechariah 7:8-12 NIV)

God is delighted when we willingly share what we are able (or even sacrifice as the poor widow did) to give to those who need food and clothing. (II Corinthians 9:7; James 1:27.) But he becomes angry when the poor are ignored, abused, or exploited for profit as the unscrupulous religious teachers did. (Matthew 25:45-46; Deuteronomy 24:6, 10-15, 17-22.)

*“literally, ‘two lepta, which equals a quadrans,’ the smallest Roman coin; 64 of them equaled a denarius, which was a day’s wages for a common laborer.”---Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern, note on Mark 12:42.

**Jesus is not condemning all teachers. Jesus is condemning the unscrupulous practices of some, or even many, religious teachers. He was warning his disciples these practices will be punished. Punctuation is added by translators and is not in the Greek texts. 

***Reference: The Companion Bible on Mark 12:41 and The New International Version Study Bible notes on Luke 21:1.

For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: Out of Her Poverty.