Church culture has an interesting way of impacting my perspective on certain Bible stories. Some can easily take on a label of “seasonal,” and others can quickly be filed into the “tithe nugget” category. The story of the generous widow definitely falls into the latter in my mind—I can’t clearly remember hearing this story taught or preached outside of the tithe portion of the message. But I believe this woman’s story is incredibly applicable to our daily lives.
“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 few cents.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, 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 (NIV)
I thought about calling this woman the “poor widow,” because that’s how she’s labeled in the Bible, but the more I thought about it, the more I grew to dislike that name. While this woman was poor, that’s not the most accurate way of describing her. This woman was incredibly generous and courageous.
The other people mentioned in this story were Jesus and rich men, so this woman probably stood out in the crowd, though I doubt that was the last thing she wanted to do. I would imagine that she was often able to fly under the radar so she wouldn’t be noticed in the midst of the over-the-top giving from the men in the room, but this day was different. Jesus saw the woman’s faith and obedience and had to call it out.
When have you made the uncomfortable decision of courageous obedience?
Her presence in the midst of the upper echelon of Jewish society an act of courage, yes, but her decision to be generous was equally courageous. She was a widow, so she had limited resources, income, and no potential for upward mobility. Every single cent that she had would have to be managed appropriately to ensure her survival and, if she had children, the stakes were even higher. And yet, she chose generosity in the face of every reason telling her why she shouldn’t.
I wonder how many people in our communities or our churches find themselves in a similar place as this generous widow.
In our current financial climate, where many people are one accident or life event away from losing their financial position, it can be difficult to be generous. Yet, this isn’t a problem that’s isolated to us and our generation—this woman paved the way for us. The generous widow provided an example to us of courageous giving in the face of society and circumstances screaming at her to do the opposite.
The sacrificial generosity of this woman has inspired and encouraged millions over the years—I wonder what a single act of courageous generosity in our lives could do for others? Let’s see what God does when we choose to take that obedient step.