Of all the nameless women in female biography, this most sacrificial widow is one whose name and background we would dearly love to know about. As we read the gospels her devotion always touches our hearts, and we are grateful that Jesus noticed her sacrifice and has preserved her story in the safekeeping of His praise and Word.
During Paschal Week women from all over poured into their court in the Temple with their offerings for its manifold services. Along the walls of the court there were receptacles into which the people dropped their gifts. Many who were rich cast in much and probably took no pains to conceal what they gave. The Scribes who devoured widows' houses, getting all they could, doubtless paraded their giving, but here was a widow intent on a far nobler purpose, namely, to give all she could. The Scribes were rich, but selfish—the widow, poor, but sacrificial (Mark 10:24; James 2:5). Among the crowds this poor anonymous widow was unnoticed by those around her as she dropped into one of the chests her two tiny copper coins. Making her offering, she passed along unaware that any one but herself knew the measure of her gift and what it cost. When we speak about “the widow’s mite” we have in mind a small offering, but to this nameless widow her mite represented all she had. If the rich had given proportionately that Holy Week, what a tremendous offering the Temple would have had. Among all the money gathered that day none had the stain of blood on it apart from those two mites. With true Israelite devotion she gave all she had earned, and then went on her way to earn a little more to care for her frugal needs, and for those of any children she might have had.
As an Israelite the widow would have a knowledge of Hagar of old and of how she called Jehovah by the distinguished and comforting name, “Thou God seest me” (Genesis 16:13). She surrendered her all that day feeling that God’s eyes alone would know of her offering. Little did she know that the One sitting near the treasury was God manifest in flesh, and that because of His omniscience He knew all about her and also the amount of her sacrificial gift. Whether Jesus may have learned of this godly widow on one of His previous visits to Jerusalem, we do not know. The narrative seems to suggest His divine insight into the lives and characters of people as in the cases of Nathanael (John 1:47, 48) and of the woman of Samaria (John 4:18).
Because of her penury, the widow would come and go unobserved in the presence of the crowd for she had none of the ostentation of the Pharisees in dress and disposal of gifts. But an All-Seeing eye saw her and knew all about her secret and took an exact inventory of the comparatively small gift she had dropped into the treasury box. The Bible does not tell us whether Jesus spoke to her and thanked her for her offering. It is probable that she was not conscious of what omniscient eyes had seen, and how her minute offering among so many gifts that day had gladdened the sorrowful soul of Him who was on His way to give His all at Calvary and also provided Him with a text for an everlasting lesson on what sacrificial giving really is.
What a rebuke Jesus delivered to the rich Scribes and Pharisees who cast large gifts into the treasury-boxes! But what they gave was insignificant, proportionally, alongside what the widow gave, and her slender gift brought forth from the greatest Giver of all a message that lifted the poor to their rightful fraternity of service with the godly rich in the kingdom of God: “Of a truth ... this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: [With this sentence Jesus must have waved His hand in the direction of those who loved the praise of men and not of God.] For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.”
Over against the show of easy service, Jesus placed the piety of self-denial. The widow’s two mites represented her two hands that had earned the mites, and which would earn more for another sacred fraction for the God she worshiped. Paul commended the churches of Macedonia because their deep poverty had abounded unto the riches of their liberality (2 Corinthians 8:1, 2). As it is “by him actions are weighed” (1 Samuel 2:3), in His balances the loving act of the poor widow outweighed the munificence of the rich Pharisees. It is not what we give but how we give that counts with Him who gave Himself for a lost world. The widow gave all she had at the time, and surrendered it gladly. May we ever remember that our giving must be inspired by what we owe Him who redeemed us at such cost, and also placed over against what is left after we give! How apropos are the words of Solomon as we think of the poor, unnoticed widow whom Jesus rewarded with everlasting remembrance: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).
Devotional content drawn from All the Women of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer. Used with permission.