The Widow’s Mite

In the classic story of the Widow’s Mite, found in the synoptic Gospels, Jesus contrasts the donation to the temple treasury of two coins by a widow to the offerings by those who had riches. These coins were made of copper they were called lepton. It was a small thin coin, the smallest in the denomination.

Traditionally, this story is used to convey that we should all be generous givers to the cause of God. There is joy to be found from giving to help others in need. I am not suggesting that we should not be givers.

Some ecclesiastical leaders, acting like those ancient “teachers of the law”, suggest that this giving should be in tithes and offerings to a specific church, regardless of the need or poverty of the giver. There is no biblical scriptural basis for this requirement. Ancient tithes were a system of taxation, which was replaced before the time of Christ by voluntary giving to support a ministry or synagogue.

But, maybe there is another way to look at the story of the poor widow.

To understand it in context, we need to see what Jesus is talking about. The church leaders were wealthy and used the funds to build a beautiful, ornate temple, adorned with the finest white walls and gold trimmings. The leaders also used the money to provide for themselves handsome salaries. Some widows were poor because they had no income, but still may have had property. In their social system, those who sat in ”the highest seats“, would end up as the administrator of the widows property, thus devouring it and receiving high fees in the process.

It is remarkably interesting that Jesus neither praises nor condemns the widow’s offering, nor does he encourage us to “go and do likewise.”

He does condemn the leaders, who love leader worship, and willing accept money from those who need it for their livelihood. He says they will be punished most severely. He also said that the ornate temple would be destroyed.

If you have been a generous giver, you know how good it feels. Please, stay generous. Give to causes that you believe in. Give to charities that are transparent and serve the needy. And it’s ok if you need all of your money to take care of yourself or family, then give of your time in service to those in need.

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