Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4
The Brave Widow Who Would Do Her Part
Two lepta. A lepton, my bible notes tell me, was a Jewish coin worth 1/128 of a denarius, which was a day’s wage. So this widow’s two copper coins amounted to a whole 1/64 of a day’s wage. When saying what the two copper coins amounted to, the ESV simply translates the next Greek word, kodrantes, with, “penny,” not exactly accurate since a penny would not even amount to that much in our day, but it gets the point across. This poor widow basically tossed a penny into the offering box.
The passage makes the point that the wealthy were putting large sums into these boxes. Nothin’ wrong with that. But what intrigues me about this passage is that this poor widow had the temerity to toss her pittance in the box regardless who saw her do it. You see, most people see this woman as a victim, and, no doubt, Jesus makes it plain that she was, indeed, a poor widow. But that didn’t stop her; she would put her offering in the box along with that of everyone else. Why not? She was a daughter of Abraham as much as they were; she was a woman created in the image of God; she, too, had her responsibility to give to the needs of God’s work and God’s people, and she would not be denied that privilege. I don’t feel sorry for her; I envy both her faith and her pluck.
I recall a story (apocryphal or not, it does not matter) about a widow who gave a large sum to her local church. The pastor was very bothered about it knowing the woman’s situation. Though he was genuinely appreciative, he felt she could not afford to give so much to the church and so decided to visit her. She assured him that her intentions were sincere and wanted to give exactly what she gave. He responded, “I hate for you to give so much to the church.” She turned to the young pastor with that reproving eye that only a grandmother can give and answered, emphatically, “I didn’t give it to the church or to you. I gave it to the Lord.” (Sometimes pastors can be guilty of taking too much responsibility for the members of their flock.)
Yes, the obvious lesson from this passage is: 1) Our Lord does not seek equal gifts but equal sacrifice; and, 2) Our Lord seeks gifts which come from willing and sincere hearts (2 Corinthians 9:7). But since that much is obvious, I chose to come from a different angle. We sometimes victimize people by seeing them as victims, and dehumanize people by dismissing their abilities to offer their gifts because we think we need to guard and care for them. And in doing so, we make ourselves feel better at their expense.