Is the widow’s mite story as simple as it’s often told? Or we have we missed something about a command repeated throughout that Bible that many (maybe most) ignore? Sure, it’s about a faithful woman’s trust, but what was the purpose of the temple treasury she was putting her coins into? And how had the system gotten so backwards that it aroused the anger of the Lord?
As this article from Christianity Today explains, if we only teach this as a story of generosity, we may fail to obey a repeated biblical command.
By Ted Olson
The “poor widow” of Mark 12 and Luke 21 gets more homiletical airtime than most of the apostles. She’s there for every Stewardship Sunday, front and center of every capital campaign. Her two small coins have inspired billions of additional gifts, as she’s served as an example of the kind of giving God desires.
And so far as they go, the lessons we’ve taken from the story of the widow’s mite are true: God cares not about the size of the gift but about the size of the sacrifice. What matters is not the amount that one gives but the amount that one keeps for oneself. But this isn’t the story where Jesus commands, “Sell all you have and give.” This is the story where Jesus commands, Watch out!
Perhaps this story isn’t so much about how we should be more like the widow. Perhaps it’s more about what she’s doing in the temple in the first place … and why she only has two copper coins.