Jesus saw what she gave and sees how and what you give. Today, let us look at 3 powerful lessons in sacrificial giving from the poor widow.
I have been to several church services and observed how gift offerings are collected in some of these denominations. In most cases, offerings are collected in offering bags passed round the congregation. And in a few other churches that I have been to, the members are made to dance forward to the altar to give their offerings in large baskets.
This dance to the altar to give often reminds me of the story of the poor widow and how Jesus observed what she gave that day.
The Widow’s Selfless Gift
But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. – Mark 12:42
Have you ever given your all to God or someone in dire need? The book of Mark introduces us to the story of the poor widow. And her story is found in two books of the New Testament (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4). She is introduced to the world and her life is captured in four interesting verses. She is described as a poor widow who out of her poverty gave all that she had to God. Jesus notices and calls his disciples over for an important teaching moment on giving.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” – Mark 12:43-44
Earlier on in the same chapter, Jesus spoke about the teachers of the law of that day and how they loved to walk about in long flowing robes, have the most important seats in the synagogue and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces.
He also noted that these same people cheated widows of their property and pretended to be religious by making long prayers in public. It was more of an outward show of religion rather than a life that reflected the character and nature of God. And almost immediately after his talk on outward religion, a poor widow comes in to give and teaches us some important lessons on sacrificial giving.
Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.” – Mark 12:38 – 40
Jesus watches how we give and knows why we give. This is because he noted as he watched the people give their offerings in the temple. In his words, the rich and wealthy amongst the crowd came in and put in large amounts into the offering baskets. But one poor widow came in and gave what seemed worthless in the eyes of many, yet gave all that she had. Jesus saw the humble gift of a widow and thought it worthy of note to share with the world.
3 Powerful Lessons in Sacrificial Giving from the Poor Widow
1 . Giving is a matter of the heart.
When this poor widow walked into the temple to give her gift on that day, it wasn’t because she had more than enough. She only came to give to God out of the goodness and love in her heart for him. And so she gave willingly and sacrificially.
Imagine if the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes came in to give that day, it would have been a public show of religious giving according to the law. But this widow had moved from religious giving to honoring God with her gift. Her heart was in the right place and her giving flowed effortlessly from her heart. When we give our time, gifts and resources to him, God wants it to come from a heart of love.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthian 9:6-8
Here’s my point. A stingy sower will reap a meager harvest, but the one who sows from a generous spirit will reap an abundant harvest. Let giving flow from your heart, not from a sense of religious duty. Let it spring up freely from the joy of giving—all because God loves hilarious generosity! –2 Corinthian 9:6-8 TPT
2. Giving is an act of faith.
Sometimes, we give because God is leading us in faith to give in that moment. Imagine this widow giving all that she had not knowing what tomorrow would look like for her. This was what this poor widow did- casting her bread upon the waters by giving to God in faith.
In the story of the good Samaritan, we see a man who gave his time and resources to help a man who had been left for dead. It was not convenient, and he had every reason not to. The man was a Jew, and he was a Samaritan. They were sworn enemies, but he chose godliness over worldliness.
He recognized that before God, we are all humans and matter in his eyes. And so, this Samaritan gave out of the abundance of love in his heart to nurture a wounded man back to life. The little boy in the bible gave his five loaves of bread and two fishes to Jesus to feed the multitude. He was not expecting anything in return, he simply wanted to be a blessing to others in that moment.
The Macedonian church gave to help the Christians in Jerusalem. Apostle Paul called out their act of generosity. The Shunammite woman fed God’s servant Elisha and provided a room for him to stay. All of their giving was an act of faith knowing that no action or labor of love of ours goes unnoticed by God. You are a child of God, let your faith in God compel you to give and be a blessing to others around you. Let your giving be an act of faith knowing that as you give, lives are touched, hope is rekindled, healing flows and destinies are transformed forever.
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ – Acts 20:35
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1
Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse. – Proverbs 28:27
3. Giving is an act of sacrifice
Have you ever given away something precious to you? This widow walked into the temple to give knowing that there would be no praise, that her gift was insignificant in terms of monetary value and her resources very little. Yet, she gave it all away. It was an act of sacrifice. David said this:
I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing – 2 Samuel 24:24.
This powerful king in the bible believed that giving to God had to stretch him beyond his comfort zone. Sometimes we will give according to our ability and at other times giving will be beyond our ability.
I love these words on giving from abiding love.
What does it mean to give beyond our ability? It means to push our giving past the point where the figures add up. It means to give when the bottom line says we shouldn’t. It means living with the faith of the poor widow. For most of us, giving according to our means would stretch us. Giving beyond our means would appear to break us. But it won’t—because we know God is faithful. – abiding-love.com
The poor widow looked beyond her poverty and what she had in her hands and choose to look to the one who gives us all that we have. Her sacrificial giving points us to the sacrifice Jesus made by laying down his own life as a gift to redeem mankind back to God. And within her story, Jesus points out that her giving is a matter of the heart, an act of faith and sacrifice.
Jesus called his disciples to gather around and then said to them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given a larger offering than any of the wealthy. For the rich only gave out of their surplus, but she sacrificed out of her poverty and gave to God all that she had to live on, which was everything she had. – Mark 12:43-44 TPT
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.
For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do. – 2 Corinthians 8:1-5
Your heart and attitude matters before God when giving. Your giving must never be about recognition and getting honor and praises from men.
Giving is also not about the quantity we give but about the state of our hearts and our devotion to God almighty. It is when you are able to give in lack and abundance to honor God and display your love for him and others.
In the world today, God is in need of cheerful and sacrificial givers whose heart will overflow in rich generosity to bring succor, hope, healing, faith and the good news of the gospel to millions around the world. Whether it’s the gift of your time, care, words and resources. Will you be one of them?
Heavenly father, open my heart today to be a giver. Purge my heart of every trace of greed, selfishness and self-centeredness. May my giving always be borne out of a heart full of love and devotion to you Lord. I will give my time, gifts and resources for the advancement of your kingdom and to bless mankind. I ask for grace to always be a cheerful and sacrificial giver and one who gives in little and in plenty. May my giving always be borne out of faith and trust in you. Amen!