Study 10 THE WIDOW, WHEN SHE GAVE ALL THAT SHE HAD
OUR LORD’S COMMENDATIONS
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Mark 12:41-44; Commendation: Verses 43-44)
This final study in our series concerns our Lord and a poor widow. So far as we know, the Lord did not even speak to her. What He said about her, however, is a most gracious word of commendation, and it forms the key to our study, which has to do with the question of our giving to the Lord. In Old Testament times it was an obligation and a duty, and the Jews brought to Him their tithes and offerings. In New Testament times the question of our giving to Him is taught not so much as a duty but as a privilege and a delight. We are exhorted to give cheerfully and with gratitude - look up 2 Corinthians 9:7. The Bible has much to say about the stewardship of money, and this incident before us contains some valuable lessons.
1. THE FIRST LESSON IS THAT THE LORD SEES WHAT WE GIVE TO HIM AND WHAT WE KEEP FOR OURSELVES.
See what Mark 12:41 says. Jesus sat ”opposite the place where the offerings were put” and watched how the people were giving - whether casually or carefully, grudgingly or cheerfully, the least possible or the most possible. He still does just that. He notices whether they give out of duty, or as a thank-offering to the Lord who has given so much to them. How a Christian gives to the Lord is a real and true index of that Christian’s heart and character. What a difference it would make if before we gave to the Lord we would realise that we are under the loving gaze of the One who still sits “opposite the place where the offerings were put”, and whose eyes are as a flame of fire (Revelation 1:14)!
2. THE SECOND LESSON IS THAT THE LORD SEES AND VALUES THE LARGE GIFTS GIVEN BY THE RICH PEOPLE.
In verse 41 we read that “many rich people threw in large amounts”, and in verse 44 ”they all gave out of their wealth”. In Bible times the method of giving was for people to come and offer their gifts publicly, and often they did it with a great deal of demonstration. There was much applause when the gifts were large, and less when the gifts were smaller. How marvellous to be able to give a large gift to the Lord. What a blessing it is when those who are entrusted with wealth are good stewards! The Lord’s work has benefited all down the years through wealthy Christians who have given generously; and if there were more discipline, devotion and obedience in the matter of stewardship there would be sufficient money for God’s work at home and overseas.
3. THE THIRD LESSON IS THAT HE SEES AND COUNTS AS PRECIOUS THE SMALL GIFTS GIVEN BY THOSE WHO ARE QUITE POOR.
In verse 42 we are told that ”a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins worth only a fraction of a penny.” The actual monetary value of her gift was very small indeed - so small that we may well imagine the crowds probably did not even notice her gift. However, she received great praise from the lips of the Lord Himself. How gracious was His word of commendation! Many thought her gift was too small to count, but Jesus saw it as the greatest offering that had been given that day. Her gift teaches us that there are no excuses for not giving. We may say that our income is too small or that the church does not really need our money; but what a blessing would come to the Lord’s work everywhere if we would first set aside that which belongs to Him - which after all is His due! - look up 2 Corinthians 8:5.
4. THE FOURTH LESSON IS THAT THE LORD MEASURES OUR GIFT NOT BY THE AMOUNT GIVEN BUT BY THE AMOUNT KEPT.
See verses 43 and 44. How different is heaven’s arithmetic from ours! To Jesus, the quality of the giving counts far more than the actual quantity that is given; and the example that Jesus used in teaching generosity was not of the person who was rich and had plenty, but of a woman who was poor and had next to nothing. The Lord commended her for the quality of her giving, and said she gave more to God than anyone else that day! The others “all gave out of their wealth”, meaning they had plenty left over for themselves, whereas ”she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on.” Her gift was far greater than the others in Heaven’s terms! But God is never a debtor to His children, and if they will honour Him with their substance, making their love-gifts generous and their offerings regular, they can be quite sure that all their needs will be met according to God’s promise - look up Philippians 4:19.
5. THE LAST LESSON IS THAT THE SECRET OF DEDICATED GIVING, GIVING THAT PLEASES GOD, IS RECOGNISING THAT ALL WE HAVE BELONGS TO THE LORD.
This widow actually gave her all; Jesus says so in verse 44: ”She, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on.” As a Christian I need to recognise that, so far as possessions and money are concerned, all of it belongs to the Lord. My house, my children, my money, my car - these are not mine, but His. I am a trustee, a steward. How does this principle apply to money? If I recognise that all I have belongs to the Lord, I shall not say, “How much shall I give to Him?” but rather, “How much of the Lord’s money would He want me to keep for my own needs?”
This poor woman so loved the Lord that she gave “all she had to live on”. That was true generosity, giving to the point of sacrifice. It was real faith - for it takes real faith to give all and then to trust God for further provision. But the secret of the whole matter, surely, is that she was giving to the Lord - not to the temple, but to the Lord Himself. As she dropped her tiny, yet magnificent gift into the treasury, her heart was saying, ”Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)!