March 1st, 2022 – Mark 12:41

Verse of the Day Devotion.  Mark 12:41  And He sat down opposite the treasury and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.  

This verse of the day will be focused on what is important in regard to giving.  I call this, as others do, the widow’s offering.  This begins with Jesus observing the giving of many.  “And He sat down opposite the treasury and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.” Mark 12:41.  Now the treasury might have been located in the court of women and consisted of thirteen trumpet-shaped receptacles for both the temple tax and money given voluntarily for various purposes. This is not fully understood however it is seen by many in this way.  Because of this difficulty, many usually interpret this as a reference to one of the thirteen trumpet-shaped offering boxes that stood in the Women’s Court, six of which were designated for freewill offerings. Many people came to give their offerings, and many of the rich were giving large amounts. 

And while He was watching, “a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.“ Mark 12:42.  The two very small copper coins mentioned here were two lepta in the Greek. The lepton was the smallest coin in circulation in Palestine and was worth 1/64 of a denarius, which was a day’s wages for a common laborer.  Needless to say, it was a coin of very little value. Now as was their way, the rich probably made a show in giving their offering, both in how they did it, and in ensuring that people heard the coins as they were put in the receptacle.  But for this poor woman, she no doubt quietly placed them in the receptacle. And because the coins were so small and had little weight, and therefore were probably not heard, especially with all the noise of the other contributors.  

Now, Jesus calls His disciples to Himself and says, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44. Jesus let the disciples know that the thing of most importance is not how much is given but the extent to which the gift is a sacrificial one. Or to put it another way, the most significant thing is not how much is given but how much is left for one’s personal use afterwards. A major element of Jesus’ teaching is that attitude is more important than action. The widow’s total giving demonstrates an attitude of absolute trust in God.

There are several things this story of the widow’s offering teaches us. First, God sees what man overlooks. The big gifts in the temple were surely noticed by people, and this was probably their purpose, and also what the disciples were watching. But Jesus saw something they did not. He saw the humble gift of a poor lady. This was the gift Jesus found worthy of comment, and this was the gift He wanted His disciples to see. Other gifts given that day made a lot of noise as they jingled into the receptacles, but the widow’s gift may not have may not have been by those there, but it was still heard by God.

Second, God’s evaluation is different than ours. The widow’s gift added up to a penny, according to man’s estimation. But Jesus said that she had given more than anyone else that day. How could this be? The difference is one of proportion. The rich gave much but they still retained their fortunes; the widow gave everything, all she had to live on. Hers was a true sacrifice; the rich had not begun to give to the level of her sacrifice.

And lastly, God commends giving in faith. Here was a woman in need of receiving charity, yet she had a heart to give. Even though the amount was negligible, what could her offering buy. But she gave it in faith that God could use it. The widow’s faith is also evident in the fact that she gave the last of her money. Like the widow of Zarephath, who gave her last meal to Elijah (see 1 Kings 17:7–16), the widow in the temple gave away her last means of self-support. Does this mean the widow left the temple completely destitute, went home, and died of starvation? No. The Bible teaches that God provides for our needs. (See Matthew 6:25-34). We don’t know the details of this particular widow’s future, but we can be certain that she was provided for due to our loving God. As Paul said so well, “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

It is interesting that just before Jesus commented on the widow’s gift, He commented on the scribes who devour widows’ houses. ”And in His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market-places,  and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.” Mark 12:38-40. The religious officials of the day, instead of helping the widows in need, were perfectly content to rob them of their livelihood and inheritance. The system was corrupt, and the darkness of the scribes’ greed makes the widow’s sacrifice shine even more brightly. “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7. And He is faithful to take care of His own.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

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