The Gospels
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Encounters with Jesus: The Widow’s Mite… “Only Faith enables us to give until we have nothing left.”

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Mark 12:41-44
41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

NOTES

  1. It’s not the size of our gift; it’s the size of our faith.
  2. It’s not how much we GIVE; it’s how much we KEEP

CHORDS

Jesus observes a poor widow putting money into the temple treasury and uses the opportunity to teach his disciples, and us, God’s perspective on giving. Jesus shows us that instead of how much we give, God looks at (a) the circumstances in which we give and (b) how much we keep for ourselves.

Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death. (Proverbs 11:4)

In teaching His disciples, Jesus first focused on the person giving, rather than the gift given (vs. 43). The gift giver was a poor widow. The significance of this would not be lost on the disciples, because most widows in those days were greatly disadvantaged.

“Under the Mosaic dispensation no legal provision was made for the maintenance of widows. They were left dependent partly on the affection of relations, more especially of the eldest son, whose birthright, or extra share of the property, imposed such a duty upon him…” [Smiths Bible Dictionary]

“…The loss of a husband in ancient Israel was normally a social and economic tragedy. In a generally patriarchal culture, the death of a husband usually meant a type of cultural death as well… Her crisis was aggravated if she had no able-bodied children to help her work the land of her dead spouse. To provide for her children, to maintain the estate, and to continue payments on debts accrued by her husband imposed severe burdens. Since she was in an extremely vulnerable economic position, she became the prime target of exploitation. The fact that she was classed with the landless stranger and Levite indicates that she was often unable to keep her husband’s land.” [Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary]

Jesus wanted them to realize was that the poor widow’s gift was a great value, because she gave even though she was in need herself. Paul echoes this principle in when he praised the generosity of the Macedonian churches, which though poor gave liberally.

2 Corinthians 8
1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. (Luke 6:30)

The message to us is that we are never too poor to give. We are never too impoverished to help someone else. Even if, like another famous widow (1 Kings 17: 9-16), we have one morsel of food left to eat, we still can share.

The truth is that most of us will never face such dire need, though many of us do face financial difficulties of varying degree. But, the challenge is: Do we look at our circumstances and think we should give more or give less? When economic pressures threaten to smother us, do we close the purses/wallets tighter or do we open them wider? Jesus, through the example of the poor widow, dares us to give; to give even when it hurts. It’s when we can least “afford” to give that God values our gift the most.

Everyone else (rich, poor and in-between), Jesus tells us, gave out of “their abundance” (vs. 44). And such gifts, no matter how much, had less value to God. God is not concerned about the size of our gifts. God cares about the “size” of our faith.

Next, Jesus focuses on the poor widow’s gift. But notice His words (vs. 44b), “…she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living”. Of necessity, the Scripture tells us that the widow gave 2 mites (less than two-percent of a day’s wage). But pointedly Jesus addresses the fact that she had nothing left. God determines the value of a gift by what the giver keeps, not what the giver gives. This is counter-intuitive.

…I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20b;)

Most Christians consider tithing, giving ten-percent of one’s income, to be a virtue. However, it is clear that ten-percent is a bigger sacrifice for the person earning ten dollars a day, than the person earning one thousand dollars a day. It’s takes more faith to live on nine dollars a day, than on nine hundred dollars a day.

Jesus asserts that the widow’s gift was of greater value, not because of the amount she gave, but because of the amount she kept for herself, which was zero. Likewise, to understand how much we are really giving to God we must consider how much we keep for ourselves.

Finally, one theme that arises from this encounter with Jesus is the triumph of faith over rationality/logic/reason. The actions of the widow could not be supported by a rational argument. Indeed, if we knew her, many of us would have advised her to keep what she had for she didn’t have enough to give; God would understand. Two mites were too small for her to give a tenth; they didn’t make any smaller money. Yet, she could have given one mite and kept the other. Instead the widow gave it all.

Her act could only have come from her faith in God to supply her needs. She believed that the same God that allowed her husband to die, the same God that watched as she became destitute, was still merciful. That same God would supply her needs; that same God was worthy of praise; that same God loved her and had a purpose for her life.

In the midst of difficulties, trials, tribulations and all types of storms, faith is what allows the believer to keep going. Faith, NOT logic, NOT reason, NOT rationality, Faith will sustain believers to the end.

Lamentations 3:18-26
18 And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:
19 Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.
20 My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.
21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
22 It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Only Faith will enable us to give when we have almost nothing left, and give until we have nothing left.

CODA

  • How much of God’s provision are you keeping for yourself?
  • As the economy gets harder, are you becoming more generous?
  • Is your faith as big as a poor widow’s?

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