Baroque fresco at Ottobeuren. (from here)
Baroque fresco at Ottobeuren. (from here)

Mark 12:41-44 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Widow’s Two Mites

41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. 42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites,[a] which make a quadrans. 43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”

Two versions of “The Widow’s Two Mites” exist in the Bible. The second version is Luke 21:1-4. The tale told in both versions is essentially the same.

An Example

What should we make of “The Widow’s Two Mites”? Most commentaries carefully examine the widow’s gift. Most focus on the fact the widow gave all that she had. They use the widow’s example to stress importance of giving (See References below.). However, the lessons we draw from the Bible have four contexts: the first has to do with what God wants to tell us, the second is what the author thinks he is trying to tell his contemporaries, the third is how the author’s contemporaries receive the Word, and the fourth is how we receive the Word in the present day. Of course, we should strive above all to discern the Will of God, but we can only overcome our limited point-of-view by sharing our view of the Bible with others.

So what do I have to add here? We forget to consider how extraordinary Jesus’ comment on the widow’s gift would have been. When Jesus used the generosity of that poor widow to give His disciples an EXAMPLE of faith and courage, He pointed to a woman — a WOMAN — a woman so poor she had almost nothing to give. Then He said, because she had given all that she had to give, she had given the most.

In the days to come, many of Jesus’ disciples would give all they had to give. They would give their lives. Jesus would be the first to do that. Still, He pointed to a poor widow as an example for His disciples. During an era when women and the poor were downtrodden and poorly regarded, Jesus offered up a woman’s simple, seemingly unimpressive act of faith and courage as an example for His disciples.

Today we often look pass what would have shocked Jesus’ disciples, offering grown men a woman as an example for them to emulate. Perhaps that is because the Bible includes many heroines, many named and many unnamed such as the poor widow. 7 Of My Favorite Women in the Bible ( illustrates the character of those the Bible names, and 9 Anonymous Heroines of the Bible ( lists many the Bible leaves unnamed.

Was the poor widow left unnamed by accident? Not likely. Jesus held her up as an example, but she had no idea that Jesus had done that. She had no idea how God was using her. Her name meant nothing to her contemporaries.  The tale ends without even telling us what happened to her. We just know that for two thousand years she has inspired Christians give whatever they have of themselves, no matter how small it might seem.

What the tale tells us is that God is watching. Even what seem trifles to us matter to Him, and we know He knows our names.

To Be Continued