While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”
(Luke 21:1-4, NLT)
“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive greater condemnation.”
(Mark 12:38-40, ESV)
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:5-8, NLT)
Today’s Reading: Luke 21
At the start of Luke 21, Jesus has just wrapped up some ugly interactions with the Sadducees, who have been trying to trick Him into committing blasphemy. Jesus concludes with a warning about the hypocrisy of the religious elite.
Now Jesus sits across from the temple treasury, people watching.
Perhaps Jesus feels sad as He recognizes the irony of where He sits and in what He observes. This is His temple, His house and His treasury. He watches as the rich drop large chunks of money into His coffer. Amid all the bustling activity in His house, Jesus sees so little faith. But He continues to search.
Jesus calls His disciples over to tell them about what He observes. People back then, like people today, would have thought the widow was crazy to give everything she had to live on. But Jesus says that God’s heart warms as what amounts to meager pennies hits the bottom of the temple treasury.
The contrast between this scene and the preceding one with the Sadducees couldn’t be starker. And lest we move too quickly to simple lessons, like “It’s the thought that counts,” it helps to see the social structure of Jesus’ day and how it relates to our own.
The religious, the wealthy and the well-connected were at the top of the heap, while people like the widow were at the bottom. As Jesus mentions elsewhere, the predominant cultural thinking was that if you were poor, you must have done something wrong to deserve your lot in life. And if you were rich, well, you must have done something right to deserve God’s blessing. While few of us will admit it, we often think this way.
Jesus, in His upside-down, topsy-turvy way, rips the curtain away to reveal what’s really going on. Alongside knowing the widow’s entire backstory and her socially marginalized status, He sees what the gift costs her: self-deprivation and maybe even pain. Excitedly, Jesus calls His disciples over to show how she gave absolutely everything she had.
And honestly, someone who is truly generous like the widow must be a little crazy after all. Who gives without saving any for themselves? Who seeks to please God with all they have?
Yup, it’s Jesus. In this scene, we see the mysterious interplay of God’s kingdom and the faithful. Jesus gazes in wonder at a widow who empties her pockets with a faith that reflects who He is: One who emptied Himself completely for rich and poor alike.
Is faith in Jesus a big leap? Explore more about the claims Jesus made and who He says He is
Philip Long is a writer, knifesmith and illustrator who homeschooled two teens through the COVID-19 quarantine.
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