RMS BIBLE ENGINEERING

The Widow's Mite (Noble or Nonsense?)

The Gospel Accounts


The story of the poor widow who gives all she has (two mites) is generally used by the Church to teach about sacrificial giving. After this concept is taught, teaching can quickly migrate to the doctrine of tithing where giving by the more affluent can be more profitable. However, this article will focus on Jesus' teaching as he observes the giving of this poor widow. It is the intent of this article to present the teaching that Jesus wants us to learn from this event and his comments and teaching about it. The details of this event are recorded in two gospel accounts as follows.

Mark 12:41-44
(41) Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.
(42) Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.
(43) So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;
(44) for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."

Luke 21:1-4
(1) And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury,
(2) and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.
(3) So He said, "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all;
(4) for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had."

It appears that the gospel of Matthew overlooks this event. But as we shall see at the conclusion of this article, Matthew includes teaching the same concept as the other two gospel accounts but does not include this particular event.

(Sacrificial Giving?)

The majority of Bible teaching includes many attributes of the giving of the widow but tends to summarize it as - Sacrificial Giving. Thereby each Christian can learn that at least on occasion sacrificial giving is expected and required. Other popular bible teachings on this event includes and emphasizes:

The above teachings are general concepts that the bible teaches, but none of the above are related whatsoever to this particular event. Jesus is teaching one idea and one only. Let's see if we can find out what He means...

Jesus most often taught the people using one of two techniques by His comments, observations, or parables in one of two ways - either by parallel or by contrast. Although His teaching in not limited to these two, the teaching regarding the widow and the two mites is one of contrast. So what is the contrast? If we can identify the contrast then we can learn correctly the teaching that He has for us on the subject.

The first thing we note is that the event occurs just prior to His teaching about endtime events, commonly referred to as - The Olivet Discourse. This teaching is found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 17 and 21. So we can easily conclude that this teaching is related to endtime events.

If we capture the entire event up until the time the widow gives, then we see the contrast as follows...

Mark 12:38-44
(38) Then He said to them in His teaching, "Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces,
(39) the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts,
(40) who devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation."
(41) Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.
(42) Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.
(43) So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;
(44) for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."


The scribes were those who were involved with copying the Law of Moses and teaching the people the Law as noted in the following verse...

Mark 1:22
And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

So we see that this event centers on a teaching. This teaching by the scribes produces results. The result is that the rich or well-to-do were giving out of their abundance, while the widow is giving out of her necessity.

So the resultant contrast reveals...

  1. Rich give from abundance, not necessity
  2. Poor give from necessity, not abundance

So we have identified the contrast and captured the idea of the scribes teaching. We can conclude that the scribal teaching compels the rich to give out of abundance, and the poor to give out of necessity. This is indeed not only a contrast, but an extreme contrast. The contrast cannot extend beyond this example. But we need a name for this type of teaching. Jesus will supply the name for this type of teaching in the next chapter...

Mark 13:1-6
(1) Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!"
(2) And Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
(3) Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately,
(4) "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?"
(5) And Jesus, answering them, began to say: "Take heed that no one deceives you.
(6) For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He,' and will deceive many.

So the teaching that Jesus reveals is called - deception. This is covered also in the book of Matthew...

Matthew 24:3-5
(3) Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
(4) And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you.
(5) For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.

In this event Jesus identifies these two...

A deceiver who deceives a widow into giving to the point that she has nothing left is deception to the extreme. A deceiver has reached their maximum and ultimate skill of deception and cannot exceed this limit. The deceiver has obtained their objective in the flesh by extracting all there is to extract in the way of substance. A millionaire who is deceived to put in half that amount into the treasury cannot equal the level of skill which the deceiver accomplished through the widow and her two mites.

A widow who would give everything that she has is deceived to the max. This widow cannot be deceived beyond this point. There is no amount of deception remaining in the flesh by which she can exceed this limit. She has given all of her physical substance. Again, a millionaire who put in half that amount into the treasury through deception cannot equal the level of deception by which the widow woman was deceived.

As noted above, Jesus teaching on this subject is one of contrast and He reveals the two extremes.

So we have the partial interpretation that Jesus was teaching by observing this event. The issue that Jesus is showing us is one of deception. Other points of teaching on this subject are centered around the following observations:

  1. Why a widow in this event and not some poor blind beggar?
  2. Why 2 mites were given instead of 1, 3, or more?
  3. The biblical name for the money given by the widow is called what?
  4. Why the scribes and not the Pharisees or Sadducees?
  5. Which of the ten commandments are the scribes breaking?
  6. What is the biblical definition of deception?
  7. What significance does Jesus teaching have with respect to the church?
  8. What endtime teaching corresponds to this event?
  9. Is it a sin to be deceived?
  10. Is it a sin to be a deceiver?
  11. Is their a penalty for a Christian who is deceived or is a deceiver?

As you and Jesus watch this widow put in all that she has for an offering, what do you think?

Nobel or Nonsense?

The eBook entitled, "The Widow's Mite - Noble or Nonsense" will complete the teaching on this subject and is also suitable for Class Room teaching...


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