As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Many of us were raised to consider it impolite to discuss politics or religion, while it was always understood that money was a forbidden topic, not merely one that was not polite. While talking about finances have often been considered to be a social taboo, the Bible has never shied away from examining how we use our money: sixteen of Jesus’ thirty-eight parables concerned money or possessions and more than two thousand verses throughout the Bible deal with them, compared to approximately five hundred that focus on prayer and fewer than five hundred on faith. Why do you think that Jesus did not shy away from discussing financial issues? What makes you anxious about this topic? How do you view money and its use?
During Jesus’ day, those who worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem did not give an offering as we do, during a worship service, but rather there were thirteen chests within one of the temple courts were people could give gifts to the temple. Two of these chests were used to collect the temple tax that financed the day to day operation of the temple and which all practicing Jewish men were expected to pay annually, while the other eleven chests were used for voluntary gifts or offerings that would obviate a sin. People would place their offering into these chests in view of everyone who was in the temple court.
The people who Jesus and his disciples were observing in this passage would have all been placing their gifts in the eleven collection chests for voluntary offerings rather than to the temple tax. Each of these chests were associated with certain areas of the temple that would be supported through those gifts, such as the gifts placed in one of the chests was used to buy incense that would be used in the worship life of the temple.
During Jesus’ life, widows were not able to inherit the wealth of their husband but rather relied upon whatever funds that their sons or sons-in-law would have given to them, as well as, whatever charity they might have received from their local synagogue or from the temple in Jerusalem.
In verse 4 of this passage, Jesus said “All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” The widow’s decision to give all that she had to the work of God through the temple shows an overwhelming amount of faith that she would still be able to survive despite her lack of available money.
A financial planner once commented that the amount of money that we have in our possession does not influence our feeling of financial stability so much as the knowledge of where our money goes. In fundraising work, the ability to explain what someone’s gift would support usually had a deeper influence on a decision to give than the amount of money for which they were being asked to consider.
Lord God, when we are completely honest with ourselves, we can acknowledge that all of our possessions come from you. All that we have earned we have done only through the blessings that you have bestowed upon our lives, and all that we give away we do only as a response to the grace that you have poured down upon our lives more richly than we can truly comprehend. We thank you that you provide for us in all aspects of our lives, and we pray that we might live with the faithful knowledge that we are merely stewards of our possessions. Help us to know the joy of giving and strengthen our faith that we might trust that you will provide for us in all that we do, in all aspects of our lives. In Christ’s name we pray; amen.