[Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” — Mark 12:41-44
In the story, Jesus commends the widow because she put everything she had in the offering at church on Sunday.
So, what happened Monday? Did she buy food? Did she pay her rent? A widow in that culture would have had almost no ability to earn money. Shouldn’t Jesus have chastised her for her foolish and reckless generosity? Or at least encouraged her to have enough set aside for her bills? Or maybe a 3 month reserve? How did she manage?
Is it possible that God simply and miraculously provided for her needs?
I think that’s exactly what happened. We have no idea really. It’s speculation. She’s not mentioned again in Scripture. But I assume God took care of her. I think there’s enough clarity on this topic in Scripture to believe that God will be proven faithful again… in caring for her in ways she could never have cared for herself. Trusting the Lord, she literally gave her last penny, and I’m going to go on record betting that she didn’t starve to death the next week as a result.
At the root of it is the question of whether or not we are going to take God seriously. Maybe we’re thinking about “having enough” all wrong. Maybe the point is that God is always enough, and that He is the one that should be doing the providing … not the widow, not us. Maybe we should be assuming that Jesus can actually be trusted when He said that He takes care of ravens and lilies, but loves us far more than He does birds and flowers. (Luke 12:22-30)
I think the widow believed God, and He made a way. And I wonder what would happen if we actually believed that her story was in the Bible as an example to us. I think it’s amazing how many of us (myself included) read this story and in fact take it as a rationale for doing exactly what everyone else in the story is doing.
We read Jesus words, see that He commended her for giving all she had, and then we get all juiced up and “contribute [a little more than last week] out of [our] abundance” (v44). The longer I walk with God, the more I think we’re doing way more patting Jesus on the head than kneeling at His feet.
In another story, Mary Magdalene made a tremendous sacrifice by anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume days before His execution (Mark 14:3-9). The perfume was “pure nard”, worth over a year’s wages. It was incredible extravagance, and some criticized her saying that the money from selling that perfume could have been given to the poor. But what Jesus said to Mary’s critics, I believe He would say of the reckless faith of the widow in our story as well: “Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
And so it has been. Not just the next day or the next month or the next year. I suspect that the woman in our story never had much in the way of material wealth or possessions, but I’m going to assume she ate and slept under a roof and cared for those around her and had friends. And even if none of that was true, even if she died 3 days later starving on the street somewhere, that doesn’t make God unfaithful. God has lovingly afforded her the ultimate provision in Christ, and if she had that, then we will meet her in heaven someday and I know she will say that the Lord has never failed to provide for her every good thing. It’s perspective. And faith. And the willful decision to trust God to take care of her.
Most of what we chase lasts for only a moment, and then it fades. A disheartening-to-mention percentage of those things aren’t worth pursuing at all, and turn to ash in our mouths the second we finally catch them. But this woman (both women) pursued honoring the Lord, and her fame has greatly exceeded yours or mine or even the wealthiest people our world has to offer. For thousands of years, wherever the gospel has been proclaimed in the whole world, what she did has been told in memory of her.
Praise be to the God of the totally upside-down!