Mark 12: 41-44 – Poor Widow’s Offering

This story of ‘Poor Widow’s Offering’ heightens the contrast between the self-righteous, hypocritical piety of the leaders (cf. Mk 12: 38-40) and the true and humble devotion of the common people represented by a poor widow (Mk 12: 41-44).

This passage is placed here partly because of its cautious association with ‘widow’ in Mark 12: 40, 42. Jesus had already warned the people to be cautious about the pretentious piety of the scribes “who devour the widows’ houses” (Mk 12: 40). Jesus’ break with the official Judaism is complete. He admires the true devotion of the common folk.

The incident must have taken place in the court of the temple. There were 13 trumpet-shaped collection boxes in the area of the court of women for the offerings of the people. The word ‘treasury’ is used probably to indicate those boxes. The ‘copper coin’ is the smallest denomination of coins, a most insignificant sum of money. The poor widow offered two copper coins. It means that even though she could have kept back one for herself, she gave all she had. The statement in Mark 12: 43, “And he called his disciples to him and said to them,” is a typical Marcan way of addressing the message of the incident not only to a limited group but to all, to the Church at large. The readers of the Gospel are invited and challenged to pay special heed to what Jesus says.

The wealthy gave out of their abundance; the poor widow out her poverty. The wealthy gave from what they could spare; the widow “put in everything she had, her whole living” (Mk 12: 44). Here is a call to total trust in God by giving up all other security. The poor widow receives Jesus’ approval. The security of the poor is God himself. The disciples and all the followers of Jesus must similarly take God as their security. Conventional piety and display of devotion is no substitute for total surrender to God which discipleship requires.

Scripture and Reflection

To offer ‘something’ is easy. To give ‘all’ is most difficult as it threatens our security. When and whence does one get the courage to give all? It can happen only when one is capable of seeking security beyond one’s self; only when God becomes the source of one’s security. The more we possess the less capable we become of giving ourselves. The poor widow acts differently. She symbolizes the reversal of the value system which the Kingdom of God brings about.

Total confidence in God is essential for discipleship.Trust in God diametrically opposed to trust in self, money and power.

People often make offerings to the Temple/Church/Saints in order to get something from God. But the poor widow teaches us that we must rather give ourselves to God just for making an offering of ourselves and not so much to receive any favours.

 

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