By Mike Willis
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 (Mark 12:41-44).
I suppose that the story of the widow’s mite is one of almost every person’s favorite lessons in the gospel narrative. It is recorded in both Mark and Luke’s record (21:1-4). Think of these important lessons from this text:
1. Jesus is Omniscient. Jesus knew the circumstances of those who were giving. He was aware that some gave from their abundance, which was observable from their outward appearance. He was also aware of the circumstances of this unnamed woman who gave. How did Jesus know that (a) she was widow, (b) how much she gave, (c) how much she had? Jesus knew these things because he was the incarnate God in full possession and use of his divine attributes, including his omniscience.
“And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury.” Jesus still watches to see how we give. He is aware of the sacrificial gifts that some among us make. There is a widow with whom I used to worship whose sacrificial giving impresses me. Every Sunday she places her check in the collection plate just as do the others. I know her circumstances are those of one who is barely surviving. She does not have many dresses to wear to church; her car is far from the latest model. She reminds me of this widow in Mark in her sacrificial giving. I give of my abundance, but she gives in spite of barely being able to provide her necessities. I am privileged to witness and learn from her good example. Although her contribution amounts to a very small amount of the local church’s budget and, consequently, some brethren may not think what she thinks about anything is very important, God knows her sacrificial giving and esteems it.
God sees my giving as well. Every one of God’s children needs to think about the omniscience of God with reference to his giving, just as he thinks of God’s knowledge of every other aspect of his existence.
2. Jesus did not condemn those wealthy men who gave of their abundance. Neither do we. We are thankful that there are prosperous brethren who give sacrificially. They pay for church buildings, support gospel preachers, and send benevolence to our brethren in other parts of the world. We praise God that these brethren recognize God as the giver of their blessings and express their homage to him through their sacrificial giving.
3. Giving is measured according to what one has. Paul wrote, “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not” (2 Cor. 8:12). The fact that the widow could not give as much as others did not minimize her gift in the eyes of God. He measured her giving according to what she had. He saw in her a heart that trusted in God’s providence for her needs and a heart that expressed its worship and appreciation to God in her giving. Our brethren in undeveloped countries need to remember the story of the widow’s mite to consider that the Lord treasured the gifts of the poor, rather than allowing one’s poverty to excuse him from giving. We who live in the prosperous United States must be sobered by the responsibility we have for the riches we have received so abundantly.
Sometimes women have a greater ability to express their love for the Lord than most of us men. Mary, the woman who anointed Jesus with precious ointment, is another ex- ample of a godly woman sacrificially giving to the Lord, although that woman was on a different economic station than the poor widow. The story of her gift to the Lord is given below:
And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her (Mark 14:3-9).
We learn from these two godly women whose examples in giving are worthy of imitation.
4. The shame of abusing the widow’s mite. The use some stingy men make of the text of the widow’s mite is shameful. Prosperous men sometimes excuse their stinginess by saying, “The Lord doesn’t care how much we give. Just look at the widow’s mite!” In this manner, stingy men have turned the Lord’s teaching upside down.
The widow’s mite is an example of sacrificial giving, not stinginess. Stingy brethren who use this passage to justify themselves abuse the text of Scripture. Stingy men are not even like those givers who give from their abundance. Some men give generously of their abundance and others give a pittance of what they should from their abundance. Which am I?
May God help us to learn these lessons from the ex- ample of the giving by this poor widow. She was a worthy example for imitation.