I recently got a comment where a commenter (thrufaithalone) brought up an interesting point about the Parable of the Widow’s Mite that I had not heard before.
I have always heard the story of the Widow’s Mite used in the context of sacrificial giving – as that seems to be the most common interpretation among Christians. But the commenter argues that it isn’t about that at all.
Anyway let’s first look at the passage of scripture starting a few verses earlier and going a couple beyond.
In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”
And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”
Below is the comment received from a reader about the Widow’s Mites passage (edited for brevity)…
The widow’s mite is not an example of how to give; it’s an example of how the scribes were “devouring widows’ houses”. Consider:
1. Jesus actually says NOTHING to commend the widow for what she did. Words of praise are ABSENT. NOTE: THERE ARE NO ADJECTIVES
2. Jesus’ statement is one of RELATING FACTS as He observes (She gave more than they all because she cast in all her living)
3. Jesus says NOTHING about how the widow FELT about what she gave. NOTE: THERE ARE NO ADVERBS.
4. The warning to beware of the scribes “who devour widows’ houses” in vs. 40 parallels Jesus’ use of a widow as His example.
5. If this were a lesson on giving, Jesus could have just as easily chosen a “poor man” as His example – or simply a “poor woman”, but He was very specific in His choice of “a poor widow.” This ties it to His criticism of the Scribes who He said were “devouring widows’ houses in vs. 40.
Scripture repeatedly reveals God’s care for the widow, the poor, the fatherless and the stranger, and also reveals His anger at those who deprive them of what they need to live.
If we have read all of our Bible, the story of the widow’s mites, given in context of Jesus’ condemnation of the religious leaders, should make us cringe. The story reveals the repetition of their abuses and consequential inevitable judgment.
It makes no sense that Jesus, who is in the middle of a warning to His disciples about the scribes devouring widows’ houses, would suddenly interrupt the lesson with a story on giving by poor widows. I believe that the story is part and parcel of His warning and an illustration of how the scribes were “devouring widows’ houses.”
Regardless of your interpretation of this verse, the Bible is still full of passages that emphasize the importance of giving – so I don’t think anything changes on that front, but it is interesting to see this passage in a new light.
What do you think – Do you see the Widow’s Mites story differently now?
I’ve been digging in to scripture and have been learning a lot, just as I did for this article. In my studies, I have found Bible verses about money that have had a strong impact on many decisions in my life so far. And, I want to share them with you because I hope they will help you too!
Paul Williams says
You know, Bob. I think that commenter has it right. I’ve seen those verses used often to encourage the poor to give. But maybe Jesus was trying to make the point that we should be giving to the poor!
I don’t think He’s necessarily condemning the widow’s actions. But it does seem clear that He’s condemning a religious system that took and took from the poor but did very little (or nothing) to help them.
Paul, it was Jesus who preached in ‘church’ that day. He was part of the ‘religious system’. And the Bible doesn’t say He asked the widow not to give, or asked the treasurer to return her farthing, or asked his treasurer, Judas, to give her a welfare package.
Regardless of other lessons in that chapter, Jesus was definitely highlighting her act of faith, seed faith. She gave her all to God because she trusted God. And Jesus celebrated that.
Plus, He sat to watch how they gave their offerings. That alone shows the importance of giving… what and how we give… of our substance to God. He didn’t need to do that to emphasize what the Scribes did to widows.
JD Straw says
I agree with both the original commenter as well as Mr Williams’ comment, and, indeed, I do see the widow’s mite in a new and different light. Although this comment of mine comes more than 1.5 years later, I’m glad I found this interesting question. Today I was studying tithing and other related subjects, and on one web site, the widows mite was briefly mentioned, but just enough to pique my interest in gaining insight into the deeper meaning of this passage of Scripture because, the Mosaic Law commanded the people of Israel, especially the priests, to feed and care for the poor, widows, fatherless, strangers, and Levites from the tithe, so I did already know how a widow was to be cared for and that this widow (although giving out of her poverty), was doing so because of her love and her faith. This Scripture is a favorite, along with the Malachi 3:8-10 passages that are over-used by televangelists to gain money from TV viewers (and many pastors as well).
Tim Lapp says
And I have come to this site because I Google’d “the widows mite” because I am privileged to give a 1-2 minute teaching on giving prior to the offering in our church tomorrow and thought I would reference this passage.
I’m heartened at the discussion. I value learning what it is that is being said in the word of God, the Bible. And not being a Greek or Hebrew scholar, I glean from other’s interpretation and thoughts.
Being the treasurer of our congregation, it’s curious to me that Jesus chose, at any point, to sit “next to the treasury”. I’m not sure what people would say if I did that, it’s obvious that Jesus was able to observe to some degree the amounts that were given, and I feel that often we so downplay what is given that we rob those who are called to be givers of affirmation of their gift that is within them and rob God and His people of the testimony of what God is doing in us.
jan skarzenski says
I have just read this because ironically I found a Widow’s Mite among some things my husband had from a long time ago. I was searching for the verse and came upon this site. So I just thought I would weigh in here.
I read the verses and “I” hear that Jesus is saying the widow had so little that for her to give two coins was worth more in gesture from her heart than it was from the others who had much and could give much but it did not come from the heart.
We give from the heart, not just from the pocket.
Look at it not Jesus sitting next to rather than opposite from the treasury and a new perspective is available.
Andrew J says
I have always, always, always thought of this story as the ethical basis for progressive taxation – and why regressive taxes, tax cuts for the rich, and trickle=down economics are not only untenable economically, but are unethical and unChristian.
David C. Miller says
Jesus is teaching His Message of pure love (agape).
The giving away wealth from those with wealth is without consequence for those who give.
The widow gave all that she possessed. Her mite was the greater sacrifice.
Thus for His Love for us He gave the Great Sacrifice of His Life for the Love of all of us.
Adventure-Some Matthew says
This is an interesting look on a familiar passage. I can certainly see the merit in this viewpoint. I’m not sure what I think now, and won’t until I do some more reading and prayer.
To Andrew J, you are wrong in regard to taxes. First, there is nothing regressive about tax cuts for all (they have never been cut just for the rich), or flat taxes. Second, they spur economic activity that helps the poor and increases governmental tax receipts. Third, there is no “oh, look at the evil rich” in this story. It is simply a commentary that someone who gives a larger percentage gives more, there is no “mandate” in the story. Finally, it is for the people and the Church to be generous, not to entrust all our wealth to the government (today’s Pharisees )
Sagada Igorot says
“TRULY I SAY TO YOU, THIS POOR WIDOW PUT IN MORE THAN ALL THE CONTRIBUTORS TO THE TREASURY; FOR THEY ALL PUT IN OUT OF THEIR SURPLUS, BUT SHE, OUT OF HER POVERTY, PUT IN ALL SHE OWNED, ALL SHE HAD TO LIVE ON.”
I am not sure I agree with the commenter. The fact that Jesus took note of what the widow gave, and emphasized it to the disciples – even without praising the deed – is worth noting. This is the beauty of Scripture I guess. It appeals differently to other readers depending on their walk with God. My take here is that the widow gave out of her faith; that she gave everything she had to live on to GOD. She was giving by faith – which is what sacrificial giving is to me.
I in part agree with the commentator, however: I don’t think it has anything to do with giving really at all. I think it has to do with the condition of the heart and how much the widow despite her lack loved the Lord. It was known that the religious leaders back in those days did everything to be seen; and bragged about treating people they deemed less than them despicablely. They often stayed in judgement of those and could give the rules of the scripture; without the heart or real reason the scripture was given to us in the first place. This is in my view why they never “got” who Jesus was(The Messiah) because of the what they expected(based on religious rules and not OUR own heart condition and need for HIM) They couldn’t see pass their things–God doesn’t need our things He wants our heart because where our heart is there will our treasure be also…. If we have a pure heart we will see God! “Blessed are those pure in heart for they shall see God”. Mathew 5:8: The widow gave from her heart which is why I think God mentions it and no one but God knows what we have to give really. Jesus knew she gave all she had and it would not have been this way if she had not of been robbed and treated so poorly by such religious and wicked leaders–we don’t know what happened after she gave as isn’t mentioned in scripture so it’s not for us to know or it would have been mentioned. Just food for thought…Blessings!!
Could not this also be a reference to “Judge not lest ye be judged yourself?” The wealthy in this lesson represent those who “give” or make a small sacrifice to curry favor and respect as a giver. (The Catholic Church has always recognized wealthy donations publicly and many believe they can atone by paying the Church.) I think Jesus is telling the story to illustrate what God sees as sacrifice. The widow gave all of herself to God without expectation of anything. The wealthy held most of themselves in reserve only giving a portion to God, expecting a favorable outcome. The scriptures often reference God’s wish that we give all of ourselves and will be taken care of in return. The widow, demonstrated by her sacrifice that she holds nothing in material value above God. While the wealthy make a token sacrifice because they value wealth more than they value God.
Alan Hargus says
Just as it is throughout the bible, there are many correct meanings
that can be drawn from an example that has countless meanings.
That is how God speaks to us personally through His word.
It would also be good to look at the way Christ sees what may be hidden from most of humanity. Poor people, and those that seem
unimportant to society are greatly recognized by God, who is the
true owner and source of all there is. It is the ordinary unknown man
who make up the. Unrecognized masses that hold our world together
by obediance to God. ” Blessed are the meek”. “Blessed are the poor
I had heard this passage preached many times and it was always used in the context of giving. As I studied scripture more and learned how to study through hermenuetics I have found that Luke 21 has to be read with Luke 20. Before a certain time scriptures were not numbered and put into chapters. This numbering has been great for memorizing and finding certain scripture passages but it really causes one to stop reading at the chapter ending rather than continuing to read the text for what Jesus was communicating.
Luke chapter 21 seems to communicate about the widows giving but if you read the prior two verses in chapter 20 ( 45-47) Jesus is telling the disciples to watch out for the Pharisees who devour widows houses. If you keep reading in Luke 21 now Jesus shows us an example of how this plays out. The widow gives all she has and probably will lose her house.
I had to speak to a friend who is older and single because her husband left her(like a widow). My friend is giving to a fault and will give everything she has to whoever says they need something…she has been taken advantage of many times. Likes to give to televangelists (the kind that own jets and always ask for money). Please don’t get out of what I am saying that we shouldn’t give. Give to your local church but be wise in your giving.
Michael G says
Here is another thought on the Mark passage:
Chapters 11-13 are a compilation of interactions that Jesus is having during the week after His Triumphal Entry. Each section has its own sub-theme: taxes. resurrection, faith, etc… In verse 12:38 He is condemning the Scribes for their pride and He lists several ways their pride is evidenced: walking around in long robes, respectful greetings…devour widow’s houses…” It does NOT say “poor widows houses’. It is because of the nature of the entire list that some would believe that these were probably rich widows and the scribes were exploiting them by using their position as jurists to adjust claims against the wealthy widows.
In contrast – not in comparison – Jesus then identifies a POOR widow in verses 41-44 to discuss His next theme – Giving!
This interpretation makes more sense to me, in the context of many of Jesus’ other parables as well as in the context of His previous remarks about the scribes.
I really like this interpretation. I think sometimes people use the widow’s mite story to induce guilt and challenge people to give their all as the widow did, which is not helpful. But seeing the passage in light of God’s concern for JUSTICE, encourages us to continue our fight for the poor/oppressed.
Wow! When I was working I had no problem giving surplus of my tithes. Now that I’m not making the income I use to receive, it’s a struggle, but, I still give ALL of my first fruits. Working in faith like the Widow Mite. Now, after reading this article brings a whole different perspective of this story. It’s deep and I’m not political or anything but it makes you think of how the individuals and groups that we have in offices of higher ranks are “devouring widow’s houses” – Pray for our country…
This articular has changed my life forever. As an older disabled woman, living alone, every year I get poorer. I could not understand why, because I am very frugal. Now all my guilt attached to giving due to pressure from leaders is gone. What is the point of sacrificial giving if it makes the person homeless or hungry? Jesus wants to bless not curse us.
Interesting. Clearly this shows a case of misinterpretation of scripture! Lets just believe in the holy spirit who will help us unveil all truth (John 16:13).
Just heard two preacher also who because of the context about the devouring widows livelihood she was not commended for her giving….. She needed to attend to life and spend the little money she had to take care of herself…
Interesting post. Every time I talk with my Christian friends about this passage, they have the attitude that somewhat shocks me. They feel, that since they are poor, that whatever they put in the offering plate, is immensely significant. It is an attitude of superiority. Superiority in the sense that they are better than rich people. Somehow, those filthy-rich turds aren’t putting in enough money in relation to what they’ve got.
They seem to feel comfortable with not putting more effort into their own lives. They seem to think that everything is pre-destined, and that God will do everything for them. They’re waiting for their winning lottery ticket to show up.
Khaleef @ KNS Financial says
I think that this is definitely an interesting and thoughtful interpretation. I will have to read the passage in it’s full context and do some studying and praying before coming to a conclusion either way. But, it’s good to see people really trying to study and understand God’s word, and not just accept teachings because they are common.
Might not this be a testament to the widow’s faith? God’s Word states that the world is His and everything in it. Another scripture states that God will supply all our needs. If one truly believes these promises of God then when their all has been expended they need not worry because He who cannot lie has promised to replenish their supply. Jesus’ narrative tells us that she, unlike all the other contributors, has no surplus. She’s a widow (i.e. has no husband to help with finances). She’s poor and just exhausted her last. What if her actions were borne out of her past experiences with God or willingness to take Him at His Word. “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! — Matt 7:11” To live such a life of faith would likely appear foolish to the world but God’s Word states that without faith it is impossible to please Him. This type of faith is experiential.
Feeding Widows says
It is real story, “I will not leave you comfortless” (john: 14.18).
We must also take note of the fact that only the men were required to pay. The widow gave all she had when she didn’t have to. She had to have faith but also a love for her God and a desire to keep his house supplied above her own.
That’s a really interesting view. This is what I see at the beginning of verse 41 of Mark 12. “Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury.” And, it adds, many who were rich put in much. For anyone to see any connection of how much of what they give, I suppose that’s up to them. The fact is, Jesus sat and watched how they put it in. Couple of things to think about here: How do we give, poor or rich? How do we give? Grudgingly? Because it is part of the service agenda? Because we don’t want to be seen NOT giving? Because we want something in return? Because we love God who does not judge us according to our iniquities, and give obediently, happily? Also, because it was all the widow had cannot be ignored. Does this mean we are to give until we have nothing left? That’s up to the person and the move of the Holy Spirit. According to your faith be it unto you. It must be so, as our Lord said it. Regardless how we view this text, one thing I live by is this: If your sacrifice does not move you, it will not move God. (Remember David in 1Chronicles 21?)
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Excellent. Why would Jesus spend this time teaching about the hypocrisy of the religious institutions and it’s praying on widows and then condone the act of the widow giving to that very institution? Certainly something to think about.
A few thoughts: The widow may have been a rich (or poor) widow at one time and had her house devoured by the scribes and now she is a poor widow who continues to give to provide for those who took from her. Isn’t it the church leaders who are provided for by the tithes? It may be that the widow has “turned the other cheek”, she continues to give, to care for those who have taken from her. We are to spend our lives caring for others not making ourselves look important.
Is this a sad look at how the religious leaders have lead the people to also be “religious” and not truly honoring God, but simply an act of following the law? Is this a case where not only has the widow’s house been devoured by the religious leaders but also her soul? Have they lead her so far astray they will take everything from her and allow her to do it beacause of pride, greed, self-importance?
Help me out please, but I fail to see the connection your contributor is trying to make between the Pharisees’ abuses and the status of the widow. Also, I am surprised at the inability to see Jesus’ commendation of her actions just because an explicit praise of it is not stated. It is a story of faith on God’s ability to provide for her being evidenced by her “extreme” generosity. The whole point of the passage for me is about giving.
What I think is interesting and I’m by no means as “scholarly adept” I dont’ know Greek or Hebrew or Gaelic… that being said. I know Jesus talked quite a bit about money and not being bound to it or by it. It’s common knowledge that the church and the people are synonymous with a hospital and the sick… we need fixing. She was giving all she had as she had nothing left to give. God didn’t create us to be lazy, that’s for sure. Throughout the old testament there was a way to make “payments” if you will for every class of people. The year of jubilee was to basically wipe the slate clean and start all over. There is nothing we can ever pay to BUY our way to our Father. So we give what we have. “first fruits” if you will. God knows her heart and used her for a lesson that has been obviously important enough to make it into our Bible. (jesus in book form) We are told to help the poor and down trodden and maybe there was some corruption in the church (even now). The folks that are corrupt will receive their “harsher punishment”. Maybe the will be convicted of their sin more when having to answer to Jesus about “doing to the least of these”. I think we should all give, of ourselves whatever it is that we’re lacking. Kinda like sowing and reaping. She was being obedient in her giving (even if she didn’t “have to” by not being a male. Not to make a show of it, not that God needs anyone to show him off…. but as to plant a faith seed, which will produce a crop of bigger faith. She may have gone above and beyond where the wealthy folks have given of their surplus. Which to me means “not their first fruits”…. but left overs. It would be nice to have been a fly on the wall to see how she was blessed aftewards, but that is something I’ll find out later when I can talk to her and God in heaven. :>)
I think this is a message about obedience mainly. What is most interesting is that the widow gave knowingly to a corrupt institution that would probably waste the money on a self-absorbed religious system. The aspect that is overlooked is timing. She gave that amount at that moment so that her actions could be used by Christ and recorded for eternity. Obedience is better than sacrifice and obedience requires a humble dependence on God to hear his leading. We are anxious to make some sort of rule out of this passage so we don’t have to depend on God to lead us about when and how much to give to whom. Would we be willing to give 100% of our income to a corrupt institution out of obedience like the widow did? Or more difficult for the legalist, would we be willing to give 3% of our income instead of 10% to a worthy cause instead of our church out of obedience? Could you give $100 to a drug addict who would likely waste it on drugs if God lead you to do it? Most of us prefer to stick to some well researched rules about giving, but as a result we miss God’s inefficient (in man’s eyes) plans in favor of the security of rules. Only God can give us a truly generous heart and giving from what He has put in our hearts will last for eternity. Anything less is an attempt to glorify ourselves or bribe God.
“We are anxious to make some sort of rule out of this passage so we don’t have to depend on God to lead us about when and how much to give to whom.”
“…giving from what He has put in our hearts will last for eternity. Anything less is an attempt to glorify ourselves or bribe God.”
Thank you. That makes sense.
Dwight A says
To me, the story illustrates a point: That charity is measured not by how much you give, but by how much you keep (that how much you give is not measured by quantity given, but quantity kept). It’s a lesson about charity in general, and about the pride of those who give much out of convenience–who buy the praise of the world with false acts of charity.
Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe says
I very much appreciate the contribution of the initial comment. I never would have considered that. However, I don’t think the two points are mutually exclusive. I think it is not odd that Jesus would be talking about both how much you give and condemning those who steal from the poor. I don’t think it is odd that Jesus would use the occasion to speak about giving as well as stealing which are extremes from one another. For we also steal from God in the lack of offering (Malachi 2) as we steal from our poor neighbor who is defenseless (Deuteronomy 15:7-11). So also we give to God from our lack as we give to poor neighbor even when we lack for he is our own flesh (Heb 13:3, Isaiah 58:7, 2 Corinthians 8). Also as Jesus said, in as much as you did this to the least of these, you were doing them to me. Clearly God Almighty chooses to identify with those who lack all that their poverty might become wealth both literally and metaphorically (Revelations 3:15-22). As an additional example, Paul speaks of giving to him as a corollary to sowing in the Spirit (Gal 6:6-10)
It’s interesting how God’s Word is always in agreement and, yet, can speak differently to us at different points in our Christian walk. I believe that the story is about giving, but on a deep, spiritual level. The Pharisees could never give God a gift that would be pleasing to Him, because they continued to operate under the Law. They had rejected the free gift of faith and, hence, were not covered by grace. Jesus called them vipers. They were sinsick. Anything they gave and everything they did was for the wrong reasons. They were pompous, arrogant and unbelieving. Their faith was in themselves. We all know that it is impossible to please God with out faith (in Him). They had not received Jesus as the Son of God. Had they received Him, they would have done things in love and would have been concerned about the poor and the widows. But such was not the case. Now the widow, although she was poor, she was rich. Althought she gave little, she gave the most. She gave herself and she understood that she belonged to God. Whether she lived or died, she belonged to God and that was all she needed to know. Because of her faith, she has been memorialized forever in God’s everlasting Word.
Brian Culver says
Hi Carter, I just wanted to bring up one important, very important detail and for you to consider this.
You talked about how the Pharisees were pompous and arrogant and they did not have Jesus as Lord and Saviour. This is true. They were doing religious “things” but they were doing it without reverence towards Jesus and their motivation was skewed. Here is where a big problem comes. Look at how you worded this…
Now the widow, although she was poor, she was rich. Althought she gave little, she gave the most. She gave herself and she understood that she belonged to God. Whether she lived or died, she belonged to God and that was all she needed to know. Because of her faith, she has been memorialized forever in God’s everlasting Word.
No where in the bible does it say she was rich as a result of giving to the temple. No where in the bible does it say that she understood that she belonged to God. No where does it say that. You have put in assumptions that do not follow along with the rest of scripture. The bible does not say she was a woman of faith. All she did was put money into the treasury like everyone else did. No mention of her knowing Jesus. None at all. As for being memorialized in God’s everlasting word…What was her name? If “her” being memorialized was God’s plan, God would have given her name. We know nothing about her other than the fact that she gave her last bit of money. What we do know is what was happening during that particular time of the week with Jesus. We know how frustrated He was with the Pharisees. Scripture tells us immediately before the story of the widow’s mite that the Pharisees would devour widow’s houses. And then you have the story of it happening. She gave her all alright. She would lose her home (devour) and would most likely die because the Pharisees were not taking care of the widow’s like they should have.
Just wanted to share this thought with you. I pray you have a blessed day.
Even though I am responding to an old article, I am glad I am not alone in my view. I was always taught in church that the Widows Mite story is a example of how to give. I never questioned it before because I trusted the pastor. However, once the truth was shed upon my heart I decided to pray about it. And the thought came to me that this is not an example on how to give but what the scribes and pharisees manipulate the people. Jesus never commended this woman on what she gave. We must examine all teaching in light of scripture with the spirit of Jesus Christ. Test all things.
Big D says
Personally I see what is really going on here , the scribes and pharisees had these poor widows scared half to death, thinking if they didnt give, they would NOT obtain salvation …a arm twisting measure that is somewhat used today, In extreme tithing Churches, my understanding of old testament Law was that widows were taken care of by the tithes , unless they had immediate family members that could take car of them. the word “devour” means to tear something apart and consume it to a point to where there is nothing left, like a wolf would tear apart a sheep and and eat it to the point to where there was nothing left for the vulchers And what I am seeing here is Jesus uses this woman as a example to where , even though the scribes and pharisees thought they were destroying this woman, which they couldn’t care less, Jesus made a point that the poor widow, gave as she did , he seen that she even out gave the rich and mighty , and brought them to their knee’s with guilt mainly because the poor did not have to give to temple treasury, they should of supported her.
Bryan Stupar says
Great article. I’ve actually discovered similar ideas. Here’s how I unpacked it recently:
1. Jesus Condemns the false religion of the temple : (which stood judged/condemned).
2. Jesus Identifies w/ the vulnerable (poor widow) who was being devoured by the system : This wasn’t a theoretical/sentimental identification. Only in Jesus do we see just how far God would go to identify with the vulnerable (poor, widow, immigrant, orphan etc) in that Jesus would voluntarily disrobe himself of his glory, become vulnerable, only to be devoured on the cross.
3. Jesus Exemplifies Sacrificial Giving : Jesus points to a widow who is devoured in her vulnerability as an object lesson pointing to the true King who will be devoured in his Vulnerability. This teaching DOES point out sacrificial giving, only the typical interpretations feature the WRONG hero (the widow) instead of Jesus who gave his life (bios).
Shall we put our Lord and Creator in a box that He may only be able to discuss one or the other? No box hold Him, and from real life, He can give both lesson and prophecy. Let’s look at the facts here.
One obvious fact is, this is not a parable, but real life. And, He’s talking about giving; as He compares the giving of one against the giving of others. Yet, who are the others? It seems that everyone wants to compare the giving of the widow to that of the scribes and pharisee’s. Shall the pharisee’s stand with common people? No, they positioned themselves at the head, across from the people. Would the whole of the people be giving on this day, or just the pharisee’s and one widow? The whole of the people would be giving. Most of the people of that day lived from day to day, and did not have the “abundance” (as in a lot of stuff) of the pharisee’s; it’s these people who were giving.
In comparing their giving, the key word here is abundance. The greek word to which abundance is derived is perisseuó which does not mean having in abundance or a lot of stuff. The abundance perisseuó indicates is a “surplus” (HELPS 4052) or “to be over, to remain” (STRONGS 4052) also measured in “to exceed a fixed number”. A surplus, according to the dictionary, is “an amount of something left over when requirements have been met”
The story here was not as much about the widow’s mite, but rather that the other people giving (not necessarily the pharisee’s; but not excluded either), gave only after they were done spending what they felt was needed to spend. In todays standards, this would equal a poor tithe after we’ve paid our bills, ate out at a nice restaurant, had our couple venti-carmel machiato’s, paid on loans of car’s which are nicer than required, homes nicer than required, getting our hair styled, and that list could go on and on.
The Bible makes one of many things clear… God wants to be first. The others put God after the worldly things and the widow put Him first.
While I do not disagree with the previous of the verses in which the religious leaders are greedy and devour widow’s homes (comparable to most prosperity preachers today); yet widow’s were the poorest of all in that day. The custom kept women from working, thus relied on the community. This would be the reason Jesus used a widow in his explanation of the greed of the pharisee’s and also as an example in the synagogue.
Most people only want to see what they want to believe; thus, we are to read, study, and dig in the scripture as if we were looking for gold. A superficial reading will only profit little. Like the widow’s mite, our study of God should be first, not what’s left over after TV, sports, and the pleasures of this world. When we do so, we have the time to study, which closes the door for deception.
Just wanted to make a clarification or correction. The story in Mark is not a parable. A parable is a story Jesus told like the parable of the unjust steward or the parable of the sower, etc. This is an actual event that is taking place and being observed so it is not technically a parable.
nigel buck says
Really appreciate the honesty of the
comments,even those i disagree with..its compassion focused not money,i agree whole heartedly with the article..my oh my what a deceptive web many teachers/pastors unintentionally weave.Context of preceding passage is everything.Seated at treasury..good point.it really shows peoples focus and motives in the comments..either compassion or giving/getting.i am truely shocked
I also do not neccessarily agree with thurfaithalone’s exegesis…look at the text used…
In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”
Now all this is well and good but there is a obvious break in his teaching, look at what follows
“And He sat down opposite the treasury,”
So Jesus and his disciples must have moved and Jesus sits opposite the treasury then we are told that Jesus….
began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.
He must have been watching for a while for “MANY rich people were putting in large sums” so clearly the audience Jesus had a while ago is now gone and Jesus has walked away, sat down opposite the treasury and is quietly observing the goings on….still later we are told…
A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.
ok cool, here is a teaching moment that Jesus takes advantage of…..we are then told that…
Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them,
Well here we see that even the disciples had wandered about while Jesus was taking a break from his earlier discourse on the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Jesus had to call them to himself to give them this new lesson he had just observed…
“Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” Mark 13:1-2
So the conclusion that the commenter has namely that…
“It makes no sense that Jesus, who is in the middle of a warning to His disciples …would suddenly interrupt the lesson with a story on giving by poor widows.”
…is erroneous because Jesus was not “in the middle” of giving a warning to his disciples (he’d finished giving that lesson)
I believe that sometimes we should not [only] read the text but also stop and hear the text. If you listen to Jesus, if you hear his voice you can hear the commendation of the widow’s action and at the same time hear the condemnation of the action of the rich.
“Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
That is an interesting take on the passage, but I think, in my humble opinion, it is not the main point. In Jesus’ commentary on the widow, he did not say anything to his disciples about how she was taken advantage of by the religious, even though, as he said earlier the teachers of the law loved to do that sort of thing. His comment to them about her was very specific. He juxtaposed her humble, generous heart with the arrogance of the religious teachers who thought that their worth was dependent on the great amounts of money they gave, even though they sacrificed little. She gave out of her poverty. They gave out of their abundance. Big difference. It’s all about the heart.
Wonderful thoughts! This really reflects our genuine love for God’s word. I’m impressed. I believe in giving,be it sacrificially or willingly, i also believe Jesus was teaching His disciples not the regious pharisees how to give. I’l stop here, because “we know in part and we prophecy(interprete) in part, but when perfection(JESUS) comes, the imperfect(our interpretation) disappears(1Cor. 13:9-10). Blessings!
Oftentimes, just like in school our churches are violently divided perhaps not racially anymore but economically. You see this more so in predominately larger areas of the country but it does exist even in the smallest of churches as well. How many of you have gone to a service at a congregation where they pass a plate around for an “offering?” I think we all have, why that’s as common as the cross itself in the Church today, and sometimes talked about even more. How many times have you not had that much money to give or any money at all? You may have spent every dollar from the last week on groceries and gas for the family, but you simply have no money left. Perhaps you are embarrassed, and when you reach into your coat pocket all you find is a ball of lint and a few old pennies. Maybe you put the pennies in the plate and hurriedly pass it along, or maybe there is simply no money there. No big deal right, no one will notice or say anything? Unfortunately that’s simply not the case in the majority of churches today. Down the aisle from you sits a very prominent and wealthy couple, (Please don’t laugh I have seen this happen) they glare at you hard when you have no money to give. When the plate finally makes its way to them, they gently lay out one by one a stack of ten dollar bills, fresh from the bank vault and even banded. All the while, they’re looking around and smiling ear to ear. It’s as if they are saying; “Look at me, I am giving all this money to God he loves me MORE!” God doesn’t need your money, what God wants is our love. Too much emphasis today is placed on money in the church and our human greed greed and desire for elation and praise often gets in the way of receiving the complete message from God.
Yes, it is our sinful, religious nature that needs to be seen. I heard a pastor speak on this passage yesterday an he made and interesting, but sad statement, “giving transforms you.” Giving can become a religion unto itself. It may change your mind, but it can’t change your heart. God transforms us so we enjoy giving. It’s a one way street. When you get the direction backwards, everything goes to pot.
Could not it be a prophecy of the bride ( the church) becoming the devoured widow, and the house , buildings, of David (Israel ) being destroyed. All because of the wickedness of the Pharisees?
My take has always been that the faith of the widow was evidenced by the trust in God that he will provide for her, so she can give all she has (monetarily). Compared to the rich who only gave what they could do without, not giving any faith/trust in God, but in themselves to provide.
My first question is, what is this treasury. What was it’s purpose? Was a repair fund, or was it to help pay taxes to the Romans, so they could keep the temple open? Did the window do it voluntary, or was she under the impression she had to give? I don’t believe it something to do with tithing because widows received tithes, which was food. The Law of Mosses require tithes (1/10) and first fruits, of food, and of live stock.
In the end, I believe it’s both plus more. Two examples in one. How to give, and how the corrupt the temple became. I would like to think his disciples would see the connection between this event and when he said the scribes devouring windows.
By the way, avoid churches that have offering jars in the front, all it is, is a way the pastor to keep tract of who’s giving and not giving. Once you learn the games pastors you’ll discover who Christ really was, Jesus knew the games pharisees’s played and wasn’t scared to expose them.
Jill Meadows says
What if Jesus warning is more of a trust. We are given each our needs, & are not to squander..
It is very dangerous to take one part of scripture and try to get the thoughts of Christ from it. Much study of both old and new testament scripture, as well as the culture at the time is needed to get close to understanding.
Tithing was ONLY required by land owners according to the traditions of Jewish Law from the time of occupation of the promised land. The Levites (priesthood) nor those without land were required to tithe. The tithe was to be 1 of every 10 of both crops and animals as they were increased. One was not required by God to give if you were not given increase. It was an after thing, not a before thing. One was to give to show thanks and give Glory to God for the increase, not to plant a seed of faith! The widow would not have been required to give anything by God’s law, this was mans law and all could see that the system was forcing any who came to the temple to give. If you read only a few verses before you see Jesus speaking with a scribe about what God requires from us….Love of Him with every part of us, and NOT sacrifices! So to say Jesus saw her sacrifice as a good thing is totally against the rest of the scripture. In addition immediately after He states He will destroy the temple; the system which abused the needy, while worshiping the wealthy. You know this because the disciples are admiring the temple, not God.
No where in scripture are we commanded to give MONEY to the church or the Temple. The grains and animals were used as food and offerings. A couple of OT verses are used out of context to convince believers today that they must follow OT law, but not in the way prescribed by God even in OT days. We are now to give freely from the heart. I do not disagree with giving, the more the better, but it is now to be freely given. Planting a seed is the biggest scam of televangelists ever used to get your money. Seek a local church, worship there and give as God blesses you.
Well said Gina!
Jeffrey A. Potter says
I do sometimes find it interesting that there are all sorts of folks talk about context context context when it comes to matters of God’s promises, gifts, etc….yet there is a widespread agreement about this being correct. (Tithing). As if to say….not everybody can preach, teach, share, disciple etc… but anyone can tithe. Sometimes that has turned folks away. There are so many lessons that are multifaceted. Sometimes I do wonder if we sometimes get focused on the nuts and bolts that we forget about preaching Christ crucified. May God bless you all and encourage you to go and make disciples of Him! 🙂
I just recently heard a message using the widows mite on giving, the Pastor went on to berate the church telling them them they had s spiriitual problem, I came to find out though the church had just added a $4,000.000.00 family life center to it’s curriculium and they weren’t meetiing budget.
I hear so frequently churches being berated about their tiithing and offerings. Iit’s my understanding the pulpit is for equipping not whiipping. Just tired of the fluff and focus on money, buildings, programs etc…. never about souls, the lost or backsliders, etc…..
Kay Phipps says
I think it is what it is…simple to understand….No need to over analyze it 🙂
I always thought that tithing was a good dicipline in life and was taught that it was the portion that already belonged to God in the first place, but the faithfulness comes in making sure to give it back. Sacrifice is over and above and beyond the tithe. Consider it a bill to be paid monthly or weekly. Now, if you are a member of church, you are respoinsible to help in its expenses, and stewardship is making sure that those monies are used properly. If not, then worship elsewhere because the blessing of the Lord no longer dwells there. If you don’t belong to a church then more joy, in my opinion comes by giving to those in need. Buying groceries for the struggling family, feeding the homeless man and his doggie weekly, babysitting a stroke victim so the daughter has a day off. Lots your tithe can do.. Don’t tithe and from experience, you may not suffer guilt, but you miss out on a some very nice blessings for your faithfulness.
learn to give willinglly not grunginglly JESUS said,and its true MOTUNRAYO OGUNTIMEHIN
Darlene Garza says
It’s endtime prophesy! It’s a woman who God called, she’s a prophetess , bringing Judgment to endtime false teachers, who had her arrested, and drugged out of the Pentecostal church. Then , had her harassed for several years, she lost everything , doing The Lord Will! These Preachers, wire-tapped her home, that’s them devouring her home. Widows, weren’t to pay tithes! Take not the widow’s raiment to pledge, and they’ve been forcing the poor widow, to pay all these years. She’s the same woman in Psm.68:8-13, speaking to Kings&armies , declaring God’s judgment, also Ish.40&41, show’s you, God calling A woman, to declare His Words. Ish. 54: is a woman who is a widow, but she’s the Lord’s servant. And she has them gathering against her. In Luke11:31, she’s from the South, bringing Judgment! And in Revel.18:7, the False Teachers, are comparing them self to her, saying I want become a widow,.she’s also, the Widow in Luke 18:1-8, in verse 8, show’s you, this happens before He returns. Verse 9, shows the Pharisee’s is the ones she’s in court with; also Micah7:3, is also about Her story, in Zep.1:7-15, is Her story , alone with the Pentecostal ‘s and everybody else, who participated in oppressing Her. In Malachi 3:5, is about them oppressing her and her fatherless children. All of this is about my story! God said, He’s the Judge for the widow, in James 2:6-9, is also about my story. James1:27, is what ,God will Judge them on!
i am now looking at the Widow Mite story different. because , i am not a Preacher, and yet i have been asked to speak on Sat, when i got through writting my motes, i said now, Lord this is all i have however you want to use it and what you to do with it, its yours..instantly i heard the WIDOW MITE…maybe just maybe thats what she said when she put in those two coins? wow
It has always been obvious to me, even as a small ,child when this story was relayed to me in Sunday School, that the story was a criticism of those who had plenty and did not give enough, but stood by and allowed the widow (who was in need) to give everything. In other words, it is only right and proper that those who have more, should give a higher percentage of what they have, and that the powerful should not exploit those who have least.
It is so wonderful that God reveals scripture new & fresh to those still seeking Him. Love all your thoughts and comments thank you all for sharing.
The Gospels are all known by Biblical scholars to use literary structural techniques, such as intertextual references and chiastic structures to insert addition secondary or reinforcing meanings into their texts. I just finished two masters courses on the parables and the Sermon on the Mount that demonstrate this point hundreds of times. This commentator is making an astute observation, but he fails if he thinks he can replace the original idea of the text.
In fact, I would argue that these two ideas need to be placed in tension. After all, a close structural study of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew shows interconnectivity between the relationship of greed (the evil eye is the jealous or greedy eye) (Matt 6:22-23), anxiety (6:25-34), and the call to not serve two masters (6:24). God is calling for an undivided heart. Greed says money holds better promise than God for prospering his people. Anxiety says that money is failing to supply the basic needs of God’s people. Sandwiched between these two teachings is the exhortation to not serve both God and money, (I won’t get into the important heading to all this in 6:19-21, but it is critical.) The widow demonstrates an undivided heart before God. She knows that God will provide for her, and so she is generous towards God. The Scribes are condemned for double-heartedness (a major theme of the Sermon that is much more visible in the Greek, see “Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing by Pennington). They love the praise of men rather than the praise of God, and are thus true hypocrites (read Matt. 6:1-21 for this nuance of the term “hypocrite”, which means double-hearted, or divided in heart, because the hypocrite performs piously as though for God, but in public so he can be seen by men and be praised for his piety. He has lost his reward, namely God’s.). There is no question that Mark intends to contrast the scribes and the widow, one who seeks man’s praise, the other who seeks God’s. The scribe trusts himself, the widow trusts God. The scribe devours widows that he should help. The widow turns to God in total trust to vindicate her in the midst of the injustice that she suffers. Adamantly, BOTH of these ideas are present in the text!
I disagree the contrast is between faith in man vs faith in God. The leaders doing something that seemed Godly to the disciples financing buildings but being torn down. In this case the widow was contributing to something that Jesus was going to bring down.
Ruby Guerra says
Scriptures should be read fully before going into “interpretations.” The effects of “before” and the “after” of a particular “portion” of Scripture are so, so very important as it give you the full picture of what has been occurring around the theme point that has been brought up. The essence of the message is evidenced in the full context of the time, place and reason of the written Word you are scrutinizing!
We are not to “self-interpret” the Word as we see fit, under our own understanding. I am a strong advocate of bringing the Word to life in everyone who comes to listen to the Word. Once you are interested in knowing about the Bible, Scripture, the Word, or however the need is evidenced in your life, its time to study the Word and you will learn and discover a whole new meaning to life, to its’ purpose and to its truth. Even though there are many avenues by which you can become knowledgeable about the Bible and its contents; finding a Bible Study group at a local church of your choice, is the best way to start the adventure to finding the truth. If I were asked to recommend a “beginning” point in understanding the Bible, I would recommend starting in the Book of Lucas. His writings start you off with the “Nativity of Jesus” and His family. It’s a great starting point as most everyone knows something about the Christmas Story, and the information Lucas gives will make the “understanding” of what you are readying a lot more sensible, pleasant and it will invite you to continue reading and learning abut the TRUTH!
I PRAY YOU HAVE “HAPPY READING” OF THE TRUTH, THE BIBLE!
BLESSINGS TO ALL!
The person who brought this to light is absolutely right.
First, because of the passages that come before-hand.
It’s very easy to take scripture out of context, and many preachers have used this
scripture to promote giving. It is clearly a warning about the religious leaders of that day, especially in-light of the fact that only a few days later these same religious leaders would crucify Him. This is not the only time JESUS warns the people about the scribes and pharisees; Luke 11:43, Matthew 23:6,Luke 14:7,Luke 20:46,Matthew 16:6.
There’s a message that JESUS is giving and it’s NOT about sacrificial giving.
Second, we are supposed to take care of the poor, widows and orphans.
The leaders of that day and many of the religious leaders today prey upon the poor and widowed, using their pain and suffering to pillage what little bit they have in the hopes of answered prayers, these so-called leaders are charlatan’s, not men and woman of GOD.
I Timothy 5:3,Acts 6:1,1 Timothy 5:5,1 Timothy 5:16.
This last passage is all one needs to know; the church is supposed to take care of the poor widow NOT take from her.
So glad to see that you posted this, many have been deceived.
Gordon Gharis says
I believe the LORD may have been, indeed, emphasizing how sacrificial the financial giving of the widow was. He mentions her being a widow to let us know she was giving all she had for she had no husband to support her to make up for her lack of money from giving it all away to the LORD. Also, the widow could be a symbol of one giving their whole life to the LORD.
The take home for me is the operating words “observing” and “how” they give. To me, Jesus was referring to the sincerity of their hearts and capacities to give.
I find it interesting that Luke 21:1-4 has is referenced on https://seedtime.com/giving-our-age/, with a link o this page (https://seedtime.com/the-story-of-the-widows-mite/), however when I get here, there’s NO Luke reference, but several from Mark, not that I have anything against that, but why not Luke ?
David C. Miller says
Jesus is teaching the meaning of His message to us. Agape. Pure Love.
Those with wealth can give richly without sacrifice.
The widow gave one mite. She sacrificed all she had to live on.
Jesus so loved us he gave up His life for us.
No greater love has one for another than he gave his life for the love of other.
This is the New Covenant.
Dean Spitzer says
I love your writings. I am a generous giver, but am trying to find a way to “give around” my wife’s resistance. We do more than tithe, but I want to give much more than we currently are. I would also like to help others do the same. I would be happy to pay for your time to provide some advice. Thanks.