Listen to the loud jangling noise as so many coins crash to the bottom of the trumpet-shaped donation receptacles attached to the walls in the court of the women in the Jewish Temple. There were thirteen containers to catch the cash. There was a steady stream of donors dropping off their cash contributions. Their polished noses held high, they confidently strut up to the temple while the chauffeur driven chariots idled outside. Then there is the deliberate opening of the purse for all to see, and then slowly they dropped their contribution in the container. Did they ask the attending clerk if there would be a plaque mounted on the wall to recognize their gift? That’s what many ask today before they make a large donation to a worthy cause.
The Lord Jesus was quietly observing the rich drop off their donations. Everyone else was wowed by such displays of generosity. But they couldn’t see what Jesus saw. Some might have surmised that those with plenty could well afford to give what they gave. But Jesus didn’t surmise. He knew not only what they gave but what they didn’t give. And He still knows today.
I’ve always pictured her to be an older woman hobbling in to the temple. Wrinkled face, calloused hands, arched back, twisted arthritic fingers and wobbly ankles – an elderly widow. But she could have been a young widow with children at home. Jesus watched her come in. He knew her cupboards were bare and the plates on her little kitchen table were cleaned off. But here she was – coming to give. To the container she went. From her hand dropped the only two mites she had – small copper coins which were the smallest money denomination in use at the time – an eighth of a cent.
Jesus called his disciples over to Him and said:
has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.
For they all contributed out of their abundance,
but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had,
all she had to live on.”
Mark 12:43-44 ESV
As Eugene Peterson paraphrased the text: “All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss: she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford – she gave her all!” Do you give until it hurts? When a need arises in the local assembly or in the work of the Lord or in the community do you dig deep enough that it actually affects your bottom line – giving to the point where it has a material impact on your reserves? If I can’t feel the impact of giving to the Lord – is it really a sacrifice?
Abraham gave until it hurt in the deepest chambers of his heart. He gave his son Isaac to the altar. This widow gave all she had and could only look to the Lord to provide food for the next meal. The suffering Christians in Macedonia, despite their deep poverty, joyfully sent a gift to the Christians in Jerusalem. (2Cor.8:1-5).
According to Heaven’s estimation the widow brought a sacrifice to the Lord. The others made a donation. God places an infinitely higher value on sacrifices than on donations. Dr. Joseph Parker put it rather starkly but eloquently: “The gold of affluence which is given because it is not needed, God hurls to the bottomless pit; but the copper tinged with blood He lifts and kisses into the gold of eternity.”
The widow gave her all. How much am I giving? Early in your Christian life establish a sacrificial pattern of giving. When did you last give something to the Lord that required YOU to CHANGE your plans or priorities? College students, young parents, middle-agers, seniors and all the rest of us – regardless of income levels and pressing priorities, we should be making sacrifices to the Lord regularly if we are living lives of indebtedness to Christ.