As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4
“What does your “all” look like?
In these short verses, we have one of the foundational models for joyful management of our finances, and it comes from a widow. Widows (and widowers) live with loss all the time. Beyond the immediate sense of loss, pain, and heartache is the ongoing struggle to overcome the absence of their husband (or wife)—a source of physical, emotional, spiritual, and practical (including financial) support. For a widow in the first century in particular, life could be treacherous.
By Luke 20, Jesus is approaching the last days of His life and is spending His time teaching many groups of people at the temple in Jerusalem: Pharisees, Sadducees, teachers of the law, and His disciples. Teaching is His priority.
But as He looks up, something even more important captures his attention. He sees an unnamed widow, probably invisible to others, stepping forward and giving absolutely all she has in trust to God. She places two coins into the treasury.
Let’s pause for a minute to consider the impact of that one single act and the implication that has for how we approach our financial stewardship. The temple storehouse and treasury was designed for two groups of people: the Levite priests (who could own no property so depended on the temple for their financial needs) and the poor, the widows and orphans. It was a mechanism by which they could receive financial support, an early social welfare system. Each recipient from the temple store was dependent on the joyous generosity of God’s people. Those who had much, gave. Those who lacked, received.
And then suddenly this widow turns the system on its head. By rights, she could have taken from the treasury, according to her need. But instead she gives!
Nobody notices but Jesus. He stops in his tracks, moved by the way the poor widow gives: he tells us she gives all she has. He emphasizes this word “all” by repeating it three times in his two-sentence directive to the disciples. She gives everything. Nothing is held back.
Remember, the widow in the temple is not a parable or a nice story about how even the poor can give. This is a real event.”
Mike O’Neill in “Financial Stewardship: Giving Our All” excerpt from Day of Seven Day Generosity Challenge by John Wiebe and the MB Foundation. Click to download the PDF and go through it.
What I appreciated about O’Neill’s comments on this text is that he reminds us how subversive and sacrifical the widow’s gift of “all” she had was. In giving “all” she had rather than taking, she turned the system on its head and caught the attention of Jesus.
To turn the system on it’s head is to give differently than those around us. Most people give their extra. Jesus celebrates when we give our all. As, Jesus sees your giving and mine, does He stop in His tracks or perhaps shrug His shoulders when looking at you and me?
While walking in the ancient St. Sophia Cathedral (pictured above), I feel like I could picture the woman coming and making her offering. How might you give your “all” in such a way that no one notices but it catches God’s attention?
Ponder that and consider O’Neill’s opening question: “What does your “all” look like?” As God leads you, act on what He has put on your heart just now. Give subversively and sacrificially. In so doing, you just might spark a celebration in heaven as Jesus is watching.