The Widow’s Two Mites (Mark 12:41-44)

It is a common practice in our society, to give the most notice to the richest and wealthiest. The rich individual’s income/charitable contribution ratio may be a lesser percentage than another donor. However, it does not matter. The person who gives the larger amounts often receive the highest recognition. In sports programs, the larger donor or booster will have their name printed in larger letters. As alumni, the largest donors to universities will have their names engraved into the buildings or rooms in recognition of their financial gifts. Even in churches, sometimes the wealthier members are more renowned than those who give less. Yet, in the following example, Jesus teaches His disciples to reconsider how they evaluate generosity by commending an overlooked factor.

Mark 12:41-44, “...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, 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” (NKJV).

Several lessons might be gleaned from this commendation of Jesus (also found in Luke 21:1-4). First of all, Jesus sees what we give. Yes, physically, He was in the courts of the temple where 13 trumpet-shaped boxes were designated for various temple contributions. So, Jesus literally sees the “rich” who “put in much” and the “widow” who “threw in two mites.” Yet, Jesus also knows what we give and is fully capable of evaluating the heart behind the offering.

Second, Jesus is not impressed by mere dollar amounts. Some may give significantly more money. Yet, proportionately, they have significantly more money to give! Those who are the highest givers are not necessarily worthy of the highest commendation to Jesus.

Jesus is more impressed by the sacrifice of our giving. Various commentators have noted the value of the widow’s “two mites.” As monetary values change over time, the valuations also change. Yet, suffice it to say this monetary contribution was less than a penny in value. Even so, Jesus, recognized this widow’s offering as one of sincere sacrifice for God and not just a superficial show to impress others. He saw the quality of the gift, not just the quantity. He does not evaluate our generosity based on the pecuniary amount but on the proportion of the sacrifice.

Jesus commended this poor widow. In her he saw a woman who truly sacrificed as she brought her temple offering even if it was a small amount. When it comes to the proportion of our giving, are there sacrifices being made so we might give to the Lord’s cause? As we evaluate true generosity, may we see with the eyes of Jesus what He saw in the widow’s two mites.