The Widow’s What?

By Mark D. Roberts

February 16, 2017

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44


A one cent coin dwarfed by a leaf.I remember as a young boy hearing this story of Jesus called “The Widow’s Mite.” That title perplexed me. I knew that a mite was a very, very small bug, something like a tick, something to be avoided at all costs. Thus, I didn’t understand why adults called the story of a woman putting a couple of coins in the collection box “The Widow’s Mite.” Only later in life did I figure out that “mite” also means “a little bit.” The widow didn’t throw a tiny bug in the offering plate. She gave a little bit, a mite, if you will.

I’ve thought about this story many times in my life. It comes back to me, for example, when I’m asked to support a worthy cause but haven’t budgeted for it. I think to myself, “Will my little bit really matter?” This happens especially when there are major tragedies in the world; say, for example, an earthquake in Haiti. Even before I consider what small amount I might contribute to a relief organization like World Vision, social media is buzzing about Hollywood stars donating millions. I wonder, “Will my mite make any difference at all?”

Yes, I know it makes a very modest tangible difference for people who are suffering. But, according to Jesus, in the kingdom of God, small gifts can matter even more than large ones. In Mark 12:41-44, as Jesus watched people giving their benevolences to the Temple ministry, he saw rich people making a show of their generosity. They gave big gifts in a big way so people would take notice. But then, by way of contrast, “a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents” (12:42). The King James Version renders this memorably, “she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.”

In actual value, the widow’s gift was tiny. But Jesus saw it from a different perspective: “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.” Jesus esteemed, not the monetary value of her gift, but its relative value and what that meant. The poor widow gave sacrificially, reflecting her extraordinary commitment to the Lord. Thus, in effect, she gave even more than the rich people.

No matter our financial means, all of us are called to give generously, even sacrificially, to the work of God. Some of us with great means will give numerically large gifts, thanks be to God. Those of us with lesser means will give less in an absolute sense. But God sees the true measure of our generosity. God looks upon our hearts. So, no matter how much you might have, let the example of the widow and her “mites” be an encouragement to you today to open your heart and your wallet to the Lord and his ministry. As you give generously, even sacrificially to God’s work, know that he takes delight in you and your faithfulness.


How do you feel about your own giving?

Are you generous with what God has given you? Why or why not?

How do you respond to the example of the widow and her “mites”?

Have you ever sacrificed something you wanted in order to give to another person or some worthy cause? Why or why not? If so, how did you feel about this?


Gracious God, I know that, when compared to all of the people on this earth, I am among the wealthy. How I thank you for the financial blessings you have given me!

Yet there are times when it seems as if my charitable contributions make such a small difference when compared with the gifts of those who have so much more than I do. When I feel inconsequential, I am inclined to hang onto what I have rather than sharing it. Forgive me, Lord, when I am not a faithful and generous steward of the resources you have entrusted to me.

Thank you for the example of the widow and her “mites.” May she inspire me to give as I am able. Help me, Lord, to know what it means for me to give generously and sacrificially.

In all I do, Lord, may you be honored and glorified. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentaryOffering God our First Fruits (Numbers 15:20-21; 18:12-18)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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