A widow comes into the outer court of the temple. Unnoticed by the throng, she is alone. By definition, she is without a husband in a culture that makes it incredibly difficult for a woman to provide for herself. In her poverty, aloneness, and vulnerability, she is the emblem of those who have been ravaged by sin. Even though she lives, she feels the sting of death and lives in its shadow. Yet, without a husband to provide for her or to protect her, she comes faithfully to the temple to worship God through the giving of her meager offering.
Many had put in large sums. In contrast to the loud clinks heard as those before her dropped in their heavy gifts, only a whisper is heard from her small coin falling. Jesus, seeing and hearing what this frail widow does, calls His disciples to Himself and seizes the moment to teach them not only the true nature of our giving to God, but the true nature of His kingdom. She, in Christ’s words, has put in more than all those who have gone before her, even though she gave the least.
How so? All those before her gave large sums. The answer is clear: they gave out of their abundance, yet she out of her poverty has put in “everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:44). The Greek word translated as “live” is a form of bios, from which we get the word biology, or “the study of life.” She figuratively had just put her life in the offering box to God.
What is even more remarkable about the widow’s gift is its context. Jesus had just warned His disciples to beware of the scribes, who “devour widows’ houses” (v. 40). In the Old Testament, the ministry of the temple included providing for widows. Psalm 68:5 says, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”
Jesus knows that the temple was to be a place of care and compassion, as well as worship. The fact that this widow has so little to give indicates that she has been neglected—devoured. If ever a person had a reason not to give, it was she. Yet she gives anyway. She knows that she is giving into the hands of those who have neglected her, yet her giving is ultimately to God Himself. No wonder Jesus condemns the hypocrisy of the scribes.
But He will do more than this. He will replace their ministry of neglect with one of compassion. He will build a new temple in Himself that will truly minister to the broken and neglected. He will lay down His life for her in a way that far exceeds her faithful giving. In doing so, she will have a new husband—Christ Himself—and He will never leave her nor forsake her. Not even death will separate them.
What truly motivates our giving? May it be because we give ultimately into the hands of the God who sees and has provided all that we need in Christ.