14.01.02 Mk. 12:41-44 (See also Lk. 21:1-4)
THE RIGHTEOUS WIDOW
41 Sitting across from the temple treasury, He watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. 43 Summoning His disciples, He said to them, “I assure you: This poor widow has put in more than all those giving to the temple treasury. 44 For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she possessed — all she had to live on.”
“Temple treasury.” The treasury chamber was located by the Court of the Women that was surrounded by beautiful colonnades. It was there where people gave their sin and peace offerings. They placed them in one or more of the thirteen designated trumpet-shaped treasury boxes (shopharoth) and two chambers into which charitable contributions were placed. These funds were used for charity, temple repairs, and other necessary temple functions. Each box had a dedicated purpose, as follows:
- Temple taxes for the current year
- Temple taxes for the last year
- Offering of two birds
- Other bird offering
- Offering for altar work
- Offering for the purchase of frankincense
- Offering for the purchase of gold for the Holy of Holies
- Anything remaining for sin sacrifice
- Guilt offering
- Left over money for women (childbirth)
- Offering for the Nazarite vow
- Leper offering
- For burnt offerings
A poor woman came and gave everything she had. According to the Talmud, it was into one of these containers the poor woman had placed her “two peruths” (or “mites”), the least amount even a poor person was required to give. By giving everything, she placed her entire faith in God for her well-being. Jesus and His disciples watched her carefully. He did not speak to her any words of encouragement or a prosperity sermon, for He was abundantly aware that this righteous Jewess lived by faith and He knew what treasures awaited her in heaven. Conversely, the wealthy man had no need of faith with the large reserve of wealth that he retained. Jesus is not so much concerned with what one gives as He is with what one retains.
“Two tiny coins worth very little.” The proverbial “widow’s mite,” as in the King James Bible, was the smallest denomination minted in Roman currency. It was known as the lepta. Two lepta equaled a quadrams. Sixty-four leptas equaled a denarius, which was a typical day’s wage for a working man needed to support a small family. Hence, the two coins the widow gave were, in fact, a very small sum of money, yet Jesus was impressed with her gift.
. Josephus recorded an account when King Agrippa, who was given a golden chain by Gaius, offered it to the Temple by hanging it over the treasury. It was hung there for all worshipers to see, rather than being placed secretly inside. Antiquities 20.6.1.
. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 741.
. Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 1:220-25.
. Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 10b.
. Tobit 5:14-15; Smith, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew. 236.