“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.”’ Mark 12:41-44 NIV
Three days before the last supper, Jesus was in the temple teaching, when one of the teachers of the law, a Pharisee, pressed Jesus on which was the greatest commandment. His reply was, “Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 NIV). In the brief discussion that followed Jesus was impressed with the Pharisee because he understood what he’d told him, even signifying that the Pharisee was very close to entering the kingdom of God.
But understanding is quite different to doing. Jesus knew this was a problem with those who taught the law. Sayings like: ‘Do as I say not as I do” and “Walk the talk” come to mind. Immediately after he talked about the importance of loving the Lord, Jesus turned his attention to the way in which the Pharisees loved themselves. He told the people to watch out for those who strut around like peacocks making themselves look more important than everyone else, praying loudly so all can be impressed. Jesus said of the Pharisees: “They devour widows’ houses”, which is a comment of their deceptive practices of not respecting those who needed help the most.
I’m sure you know people just like this – you might see them at work, in your social group or even in your church. It will be difficult for these people to enter the kingdom of God because their pride gets in their way and, rather than worshipping God, they focus on themselves.
Shortly after Jesus exposed the hearts of the Pharisees he became a passive bystander to the practical application of the message he’d given on love. Having finished with the Pharisees Jesus watched how people gave their monetary gifts to the treasury, akin to our church offering.
The first lesson Jesus gleaned from this everyday event related to how people gave. We are told the rich people threw their money into the collection box. You can hear the metallic clank of money as the wealthy people made certain that others could hear the type and volume of coins gifted. On the other hand Mark records that a widow came by and ‘put in two rather invaluable coins’ (mites). It doesn’t take much to picture this scene, as the widow quietly placed her hand over the bowl, softly releasing her two mites.
While the Pharisees were the teachers of the law, they’d forgotten that God wants us to approach him humbly, without pomp or ceremony. He takes no joy from those who show the world one side of their character while hiding the deception that categorizes the other. Jesus stated clearly that God would punish two-faced people.
The second lesson we learn relates to what people gave. When Jesus encountered the Pharisee he told him that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The rich people gave so others would notice them. Their motive was certainly inward, rather than giving to God as part of their worship of him.
On the other hand, the widow gave everything she had. She probably lived on the example of God’s promise of provision to Moses and the Israelites when he sent them quail and manna in the desert during their 40 years wandering. The widow gave all she had, knowing that God would provide for her. This was an act of sacrifice, trust and obedience.
Jesus considered the widow’s gift remarkable. Mark 12:43 says she: “put more into the treasury than all the others.” It’s not too difficult to feel the widow’s heart, soul, mind and strength that encapsulated her gift. Imagine what our churches, missions and ministries could achieve if the motivation behind everyone’s giving was the recognition of these four crucial elements.
As servants of God we should approach our lives humbly, using every material possession, gift, talent and skill, to serve him with every part of our being. He deserves no less.