The story of the widow’s mite is a familiar event in the life of our Lord. A widow gave all her money in a temple offering and thereby received the praise of the Master of Life himself. The actual amount given was a pittance—less than one penny in today’s money—but the extravagance was that it represented all she had.
The story is generally perceived to be about giving. Clearly that element exists, but there is another we might fail to see. Jesus also had been watching the Pharisees give. They gave big bucks and were quite open about it. Everyone knew their giving record; indeed, they made certain it was known.
Seeing the Pharisees, Jesus pointed to the widow. Imagine Jesus sitting with the temple leaders—the Sadducees—observing people as they came in, watching their donations. There is no paper money, so a large gift makes a terrible noise as it rolls down a long, horn-shaped object and falls into the pool of money below. Now in comes this widow lady who has two worthless coins. She drops them in and they barely clink. You can almost see temple leaders rolling their eyes and hoping for better results with the next person.
Jesus calls over his disciples and says, “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.” To the Sadducees this woman is a waste of time, but for Jesus she is the stuff that erects kingdoms.
So the story is about motivation, not giving. The Pharisees and Sadducees gave to gain peer recognition. Jesus said they received their reward—they got the praise of the people. The widow, however, gave out of love for God. She got her reward too. Her motivation brought the Savior’s praise.
I believe this widow had “tasted and seen that the Lord is good”. Otherwise, she would be daft to give all. Instead, she is an example alongside the Macedonian believers who, in spite of their own poverty, so overflowed in the wealth of their generosity that they begged Paul and the church to let them give in ministry to other needy Christians.
As a pastor, I want to focus more deeply on giving motivation. Finely developed motivation starts with an awareness of the mind of God regarding wealth and giving. The Scriptures tell us God owns the world and all that is in it. All the wealth and the power to create even more are at God’s disposal. God does not give us worldly goods or wealth to hoard or squander on self. God wants us to be conduits for blessing others. This is the reason for Jesus telling us, “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Wealth comes in different forms, with the best wealth being the hope of eternal life. Cheerful givers give themselves first to the Lord. This comes from gratitude for the indescribable gift of God to a sinful world. Those who receive this gift are eternally grateful, so they show gratitude by giving, not because church bills need paying, but because gratitude moves them.
There is a greater promise still! God, who did not hold back Jesus from dying for them, also gives the givers every suitable thing to increase their joy. This results in even greater giving.
The sequence may not be clear to many people. But here is what I believe God does: God gives to us first, then God waits for us to appreciate and give back. And then God gives more. No one gives more than God.
-Emeka C. Nwigwe
This stewardship story is from volume 5 of the Giving: Growing Faithful Stewards in Your Congregation magazine, which focuses on the theme "Let God Lead as You Gather and Give”. Use Giving magazine volume 5 and the “Let God Lead as You Gather and Give” theme materials starter kit to create a congregational stewardship emphasis on "Let God Lead as You Gather and Give".
The Ecumenical Stewardship Center offers congregational stewardship resources featuring 16 different, timeless biblical themes. Peruse them all and place an order in the ESC web store.