More valuable offerings: questions from the Widow’s Offering in Mark 12:41-44
Questions are good, they can lead to greater understanding. This is an essential skill for reading Scripture to hear God speak.
Unfortunately, asking questions isn’t a habit for many people. Why not? First, they lead to hard work. The path of least resistance often bypasses questions. Additionally, asking a question requires a measure of humility—most of us don’t want to look dumb.
Hard work humility aren’t popular choices!
Without questions, we rarely grow and get stuck in a rut. Our assumptions become continuously reinforced. With a casual reading, the lesson from the poor widow’s offering seems simple enough. Let’s dig deeper without overcomplicating the teaching.
41 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. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 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)
The widow gave “all she had to live on.” Is this literal? Did her offering make her a greater burden to others because she gave away everything?
For Jesus, the value of an offering is not the size of the gift but the size of the sacrifice. What then, does it mean to sacrifice? Is Jesus telling us to give everything like the widow? Or to do better than the wealthy? If so, how much sacrifice is required? Are parents called to give everything they have to the point of being unable to provide for their kids?
What were the external circumstances of the widow? Was she without family or work and at the mercy of handouts by strangers? Or did she have someone to care for her? If she could count on her needs being met, then wasn’t she also giving out of her wealth?
Since Jesus gives no specific rule, are we called to give sacrificial offerings according to our conscience? If this is the case, why didn’t he say this?
While the example for this teaching is about financial offerings, does it apply to our other offerings of worship? Scripture is clear that God is to be our first priority and that we love him with our heart, soul, and strength. Is it possible that this teaching applies not to financial offerings but to our offerings of worship?
This passage is rich with historical context. It would be easy to focus on the layout of the temple and how offerings worked. We could focus on the literal value of the two coins or mechanisms for collecting the coins (more coins lead to more noise—an audible way of saying, “I’m kind of a big deal.”).
This passage also has a clear teaching: Jesus values sacrificial offerings. This is personally convicting, but when we are honest, we are left with the question: how much sacrifice is enough?