The scene was likely in the court of the women also known as the court of prayer in Herod’s Temple (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4). It was an area with a simple colonnade on three sides. Along the colonnade were thirteen trumpet shaped chests for placing contributions. Jesus observed the rich depositing large sums, but it was a poor widow that he commended. She gave two copper coins (the King James renders as “two mites”). She gave out of her poverty. She gave all that she had to live on.
The widow’s gift reminds us of the faith of giving. I can see my checking account balance. I can see my car. I can see my house, my possessions, and my investments. But to store up treasures in heaven is to put my trust in the unseen. It is to claim that the unseen is lasting while the things of this world are temporary. It is to say that God’s cause is more important than the things I can touch. It is also to trust God to provide for the future. Will what I give up today be needed tomorrow? Or can I trust God that if I seek first His kingdom, all these things will be added also?
The widow’s gift reminds us of the sacrifice of giving. The rich had given larger sums of money, but the widow had made the greater sacrifice. Jesus says that she gave her whole life. The word, “life,” was also used for the things sustaining life, so our English versions will say, “all she had to live on.” But the point of giving her whole life is significant; she gave herself completely to God. Like the Macedonians who “gave themselves first to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5, ESV), the widow also gave out of poverty but with great generosity. The Lord knows how much we have and how much we give. Generosity is measured by the sacrifice of our giving and not the size of our gift.
The widow’s gift reminds us of the joy of giving. Although the widow’s joy is not mentioned in the text, I can’t imagine her walking away in sorrow about those two coins — “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). I suspect she thanked God that she had something to give. There is joy in being a part of something bigger than ourselves. There is joy in being a part of God’s work. It gives meaning and purpose to our lives. Scripture teaches that joy and giving go together (2 Cor. 8:2). “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, ESV).
The story of the widow’s mites reminds us of the widow’s might. She has left a mighty example of the faith, sacrifice, and joy of giving.