Meager Extravagance

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“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’” Mark 12:41-44

The curious onlookers nod in hushed admiration as coins rattle into the trumpet-shaped boxes. Out of their abundance the wealthy contribute to the treasury, their display of generosity well-noted.

No one pays attention to the poor widow in the crowd. Her two small coins make barely a ding as she drops them in anonymously. Two lepta, worth 1/64 of a day’s wage, an invisible deed with no means to impress. On the surface her measly gift pales in comparison to those who preceded her. But unlike the rest of us, Jesus never calculates at face value. In his estimation this unnamed woman raises the bar on giving.

A teaching opportunity presents itself for twelve dull-witted disciples. Impoverished widows would normally clutch tightly whatever money they have. But this one releases it all, everything she has to live on. The eyes of the world can’t see the impact, or smell the fragrant offering, so Jesus pulls back the curtain to expose their false perceptions.

The disciples keep quiet, giving no hint of their reaction. I too feel silenced by her deed, stuffing the temptation to suggest more prudent money management. I would like to lessen the magnitude of her deed by assuming her advanced age and impending death, but the text does not allow for that interpretation, and neither does Jesus.

Her action reveals what she believes about God and about money. She isn’t worried that her stomach will never be filled with bread again. The birds flying overhead provide evidence of that. Money serves as just another way to love God with all her heart and soul, putting the greatest commandment on display for all of us.

The curious onlooker within me now stands rebuked with no way of escape. Her meager extravagance nails me, and I nod in hushed admiration.

2 comments to Meager Extravagance

  • Vickie

    We always desire more information to make better “judgements,” don’t we? When will we learn to live a life of giving and not watching or wanting to be seen by others? Keeping this passage in our hearts will help by holding up a mirror to our selfishness. He always “sees” and that is all that matters.

  • Ethan

    It is indeed amazing that in God’s economy two small copper coins are viewed as “more” than all the other gifts combined that day. God looks what we are giving “out of” not the actual dollar amount. Even today a $10 gift could be a more significant gift in God’s economy than a $100,000 gift and even a $1,000,000 gift. What a great passage to meditate on and store in your heart. Did you know that Jesus had more to say about money and possessions than He did about heaven and hell combined? Approximately 2/3 of all the parables Jesus taught deal directly or indirectly with money and possessions. Meditation on or memorizing passages like these will transform your mind (Romans 12:1-2); help you become a faithful steward (Luke 16:10-15) and motivate you to “lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20). Now back to the poor widow. I am looking forward to meeting this hero of the faith one day in heaven. And I can only imagine that she will be living in a mansion.