Summary: The story of the widow's mite has been used to show Christians what their attitude toward giving should be. This message challenges that traditional and longstanding teaching.
Growing up I don’t think I heard a teaching about the widow’s mite that did not take the widow and make her the standard by which all of us are to give when it comes to our giving.
“This poor widow woman came to the altar and gave her last mite. She did that for the Lord! What an example she is to the church! How can you not do the same?”
I grew up Baptist and we sang the song “You Can’t Beat God Giving” at offering time. “You can’t beat God giving. No matter how you try. The more you give the more He’ll give to you. Just keep on giving because it’s really true. You can’t beat God giving, no matter how you try.” The point? Give as much as you possibly can because God will match it or even give you more.
What is the real message of the widow’s mite?
In this lesson, we’re going to see what Jesus is really talking about when he refers to the widow who gave her last mite. We’re going to begin in Mark 12.
(28) And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
(29) And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
(30) And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
(31) And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
(38) And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,
(39) And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:
(40) Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.
The scribes (lawyers who were also Pharisees) and Pharisees had convinced the people that they were the final authority concerning God’s Word. “Yes, we know that you have the Law, but we’re going to help you understand what the Law really means.”
We know from scripture that God provided for and protected widows (Deuteronomy 14:29, 24:19-21; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3, Malachi 3:5). And yet Jesus is saying that those who should be taking care of the widows are literally eating them alive – taking all that they have. Keep this image in mind as we continue.
(41) And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
An object lesson about religion and giving
Jesus is about to give the disciples an object lesson. They are across the courtyard looking at the people giving their tithes and offerings.
(42) And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
(43) And he (Jesus) called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
(44) For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
Remember I talked about how the widow has been presented to the church? “Do you see this poor widow woman? She only has two little mites. She puts it all in for God! She puts in all she has for God and you’re complaining about the tithe!”
The word “poor” in verse 43 means “a beggar, destitute of wealth, influence, position and honor.” This widow is no better than a beggar but she gives all so God will bless her.
Now, I want you to see the comparison. Let’s read verse 44 again.
(44) For all they (the rich) did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
The word “abundance” – folks, that word means “leftovers”. After the rich paid all their bills, and spent money on the things they wanted, they still had money leftover. Do you see what’s going here? God wasn’t first. They gave God what they had leftover and it was still a lot. And then Jesus says this widow gives out of her “want”. The word describes “poverty or being destitute”. Jesus is telling us that the woman gives money that she really doesn’t have to give.