The voices grew louder as more and more people gathered around to watch the discussion.
“What commandment is the foremost of all?” One of the scribes asked.
She tried hard to listen to the answer. The question was directed toward a young teacher who had been, for the last hour, arguing with the Scribes and Pharisees. However, his manner was different than any she had heard before. He spoke calmly and with a certain confidence that she had not seen before amongst teachers of the law.
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
A small gasp caught in the back of her throat as she listened to the words. She had heard the law read before and knew this was what God had spoken to Israel many, many years ago. But how could she truly love such a great God? What could she offer to such a King? Her husband had been dead for several years now, and she was only barely surviving, day by day trying to stretch the few cents she had in order to buy food to eat.
Half-listening to the young teacher, these thoughts grew in her mind. Her hand, cracked and bleeding from hard work, slipped instinctively into the small pouch she carried at her waist and fingered the two smooth, small coins. It was all she had left. She had planned to go shortly to the market and buy something to eat.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…” Perhaps she should offer these coins to the temple treasury. They wouldn’t buy much anyway. But, she was already hungry from having so little food the days before.
“No” she spoke in an audible whisper. Somehow it seemed much better to give something to God, and this was the only thing she had left in the world to offer.
The crowd was large. Religious leaders who had been questioning the young teacher, curious onlookers who loved listening to the discussions and rich men coming to make great contributions to the temple treasury all thronged about. If only the young teacher would not look her way, she hoped secretly. He would probably laugh if he were to see her giving such a small offering. Certainly, he would think it worthless and scorn her for even trying to give something when she could only offer so little.
But alas, there he was taking a seat directly opposite the treasury. Now she would have pass by him to make her offering. It took every ounce of strength to continue walking up toward to the treasury. Common sense urged to forget this silly scheme, yet an irrepressible desire to give something to the Lord refused to allow her to turn around.
Head bent downward, she walked past him hoping he would not notice her. The two coins so small, so worthless dropped into the treasury.
With a small chinking sound they were gone. She turned to leave.
“Truly I say to you…” the young teacher was speaking to a small group of disciples gathered around him. She stopped momentarily to listen before leaving the temple. “…This poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury”
She glanced around quickly, wondering who this poor widow might have been who could offer more to God than every other contributor. Surprise filled her face as she saw the teacher and his disciples looking her way. It was impossible; she could not be the ‘poor widow’ the young teacher was referring to. She had given the very least of anyone.
“…For they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
Slowly, she raised her eyes to see if the teacher really meant what he said. His face was sincere and earnest. He nodded gently to her as he saw her eyes searching his face.
Turning away, joy filled her heart as she pondered this strange statement. She had given so little to God and somehow it was counted as more.
The thought of food momentarily crossed her mind and suddenly she didn’t feel hungry. The amazing words of Scripture she had heard this young teacher speak seemed to fill her with everything she needed. She walked along the road away from the temple unsure of where she was headed.
Unsure of direction, future, or life and yet filled with more life than she had ever experienced through the words of God that had been spoken today. Contributing less and yet giving more. Hungry and yet fully satisfied.
* * * * * * * * *
This story of the poor widow is based off the account of the widow and her two copper coins found in the gospel of Mark.
One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
…And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
—Mark 12:28-31, 41-44