Mark 12:38-13:2 (ESV)

38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” 41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” 13 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Jesus was back in the temple and teaching again. He portrayed the scribes as men who wore long, white linen prayer shawls to distinguish themselves from the common people. They sat in the synagogue seats reserved for the most important in society, and they were honored at feasts with the finest treatment. When the scribes walked around in public, people gave them special greetings and even rose before them. They received income from others and depended upon their sponsors’ generosity to survive. Some of the scribes took advantage of the kindness of their supporters, which is why Jesus said they “devour widow’s houses.” Their prayers were long and for the purpose of making impressions. Jesus warned his followers about these men. Jesus then moved into the temple’s court of women near the treasury. This area was known as the court of women because women and children couldn’t go any further than this point, although men were permitted there. The court contained thirteen receptacles or chests known as the treasury, placed against one of the court’s walls where worshippers would put their offerings. Most gave moderate amounts, and some even gave large amounts. But Jesus drew attention to a poor widow who gave two small copper coins, the smallest coins available. Jesus said she contributed more than all the others because she gave all she had.

From God’s perspective, it isn’t the value of the offering that counts, but how much the offering costs the giver that really matters. The others who made contributions that day gave a small part of their wealth. Although the widow gave basically nothing compared to everyone else, her sacrifice was tremendous in the sight of God. The scribes Jesus spoke of were interested in the approval, respect, and finances of men for themselves. The widow, although unnoticed by men, was considered exemplary by Jesus. What may appear to be a failure on earth could be a huge success in heaven, and conversely, what may seem outstanding on earth could be insignificant in heaven. Do you think you don’t have much to offer the Lord? Even if what you have feels like little, give generously. God knows how much your gifts and offerings cost you, and he won’t overlook your sacrifice. Jesus was about to lay down his life for his followers. We can lay down some of our wealth in return.