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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

THE WIDOW'S TWO MITES

Mark 12:41-44 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And He called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. (Also See Luke 21:1-4)

This scriptural event is omitted in the gospels according to Matthew and John. Only Mark and Luke record this incident used by our Savior to teach His disciples, as well as all Christians thereafter, a wonderful lesson on giving one's all in service to God. Having just given a description of the covetous, holier-than-thou, self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, the story of this poor widow is given in stark contrast to their hypocritical, self-righteous manner of life.

Jesus was within the temple and seated over against the treasury. That is, He was inside the first court of the temple, known as the "Court of the Women." This court was unique because it contained the thirteen trumpet-mouthed money boxes that were used to receive and collect offerings from the Jewish people. Bible historians tell us that nine of these boxes were there to receive gifts of money for the required temple and sacrifice tributes. The other four were for the collection of free-will offerings to be used for temple decorations, wood, incense, and burnt offerings. Not mentioned here was another box made available to receive money offerings that were collected and distributed to relieve and sustain certain Jews that had, for various reasons, become poor and destitute.

While seated in an area of the temple, in view of these offering boxes, Jesus beheld how the people cast money into the treasury. Luke says that He saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury (Luke 21:1). Jesus witnessed Jews, both rich and poor and from all religious sects and social classes, entering the treasury area of the temple and making their required tribute offerings as well as those gifts made of their own free will. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. It should be noted here that a farthing was the least amount that was to be given in temple offering boxes. One mite was not enough, because Jewish law required a gift of at least two mites, or a farthing. If the widow could have given only one mite, it would still been half of all she had to offer. But having accumulated two mites, she was able to make a proper contribution. In an obedient gesture required by Jewish law, this widow gave willingly, and in doing so she gave all that she had to give.

Noticing that Christ, desiring to instill New Testament doctrine in His disciples, saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury. Certainly Jesus' statement did not mean that the poor widow contributed more total money than all others. No doubt those with much greater wealth cast in considerably greater amounts than she did. However, the word "more," as it is used here, means more in proportion to one's means. This, Jesus said, was the reason that the poor widow gave "more" than all others who had greater wealth. Jesus measures one's gifts, not by what they give, but the amount of wealth they had from which they give. The gift of the poor widow cost her all she possessed at that time - she cast in all that she had, even all her living. However, those more fortunate than she, had much wealth left after their contribution - they cast in of their abundance. In her giving, this poor widow demonstrated a faith in the providence of God that few possessed both at that time, and also in the present day.

Certainly the churches of Macedonia, which included those in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, demonstrated this same faith. Although they were severely persecuted and extremely impoverished, yet they gave liberally of their means in order to send money to relieve the distress of their brethren in Judea (See 2 Cor. 8:1-5). The apostle John said this about the necessity of Christian charity: But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him (1 John 3:17)? As Jesus noticed the gifts being placed into the temple treasury, so He notices our gifts. We need to give liberally and cheerfully, and not to be seen of man!