This passage of story was not in Matthew, but is here and in Luke; it is Christ’s commendation of the poor widow, that cast two mites into the treasury, which our Saviour, busy as he was in preaching, found leisure to take notice of. Observe,
I. There was a public fund for charity, into which contributions were brought, and out of which distributions were made; a poor’s-box, and this in the temple; for works of charity and works of piety very fitly go together; where God is honoured by our worship, it is proper he should be honoured by the relief of his poor; and we often find prayers and alms in conjunction, as Acts 10:2, 4. It is good to erect public receptacles of charity for the inviting and directing of private hands in giving to the poor; nay it is good for those who are of ability to have funds of their own, to lay by as God has prospered them (1 Cor. 16:2), that they might have something ready to give when an object of charity offers itself, which is before dedicated to such uses.
II. Jesus Christ had an eye upon it;He sat over against the treasury, and beheld now the people cast money into it; not grudging either that he had none to cast in, or had not the disposal of that which was cast in, but observing what was cast in. Note, Our Lord Jesus takes notice of what we contribute to pious and charitable uses; whether we give liberally or sparingly; whether cheerfully or with reluctance and ill-will; nay, he looks at the heart; he observes what principles we act upon, and what our views are, in giving alms; and whether we do it as unto the Lord, or only to be seen of men.
III. He saw many that were rich cast in much: and it was a good sight to see rich people charitable, to see many rich people so, and to see them not only cast in, but cast in much. Note, Those that are rich, ought to give richly; if God give abundantly to us, he expects we should give abundantly to the poor; and it is not enough for those that are rich, to say, that they give as much as others do, who perhaps have much less of the world than they have, but they must give in proportion to their estates; and if objects of charity do not present themselves, that require so much, they ought to enquire them out, and to devise liberal things.
IV. There was a poor widow that cast in two mites, which make a farthing (Mark 12:42); and our Lord Jesus highly commended her; called his disciples to him, and bid them take notice of it (Mark 12:43); told them that she could very ill spare that which she gave, she had scarcely enough for herself, it was all her living, all she had to live upon for that day, and perhaps a great part of what she had earned by her labour the day before; and that forasmuch as he knew she did it from a truly charitable disposition, he reckoned it more than all that put together, which the rich people threw in; for they did cast in of their abundance, but she of her want, Mark 12:44. Now many would have been ready to censure this poor widow, and to think she did ill; why should she give to others, when she had little enough for herself? Charity begins at home; or, if she would give it, why did she not bestow it upon some poor body that she knew? What occasion was there for her bringing it to the treasury to be disposed of by the chief priests, who, we have reason to fear, were partial in the disposal of it? It is so rare a thing to find any that would not blame this widow, that we cannot expect to find any that will imitate her; and yet our Saviour commends her, and therefore we are sure that she did very well and wisely. If Christ saith, Well-done, no matter who saith otherwise; and we must hence learn, 1. That giving alms, is an excellent good thing, and highly pleasing to the Lord Jesus; and if we be humble and sincere in it, he will graciously accept of it, though in some circumstances there may not be all the discretion in the world. 2. Those that have but a little, ought to give alms out of their little. Those that live by their labour, from hand to mouth, must give to those that need, Eph. 4:28. 3. It is very good for us to straiten and deny ourselves, that we may be able to give the more to the poor; to deny ourselves not only superfluities, but even conveniences, for the sake of charity. We should in many cases pinch ourselves, that we may supply the necessities of others; this is loving our neighbours as ourselves. 4. Public charities should be encouraged, for they bring upon a nation public blessings; and though there may be some mismanagement of them, yet that is not a good reason why we should not bring in our quota to them. 5. Though we can give but a little in charity, yet if it be according to our ability, and be given with an upright heart, it shall be accepted of Christ, who requires according to what a man has, and not according to what he has not; two mites shall be put upon the score, and brought to account, if given in a right manner, as if they had been two pounds. 6. It is much to the praise of charity, when we give not only to our power, but beyond our power, as the Macedonian churches, whose deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality, 2 Cor. 8:2, 3. When we can cheerfully provide for others, out of our own necessary provision, as the widow of Sarepta for Elijah, and Christ for his five thousand guests, and trust God to provide for us some other way, this is thank-worthy.