The Widow’s Offering


‘Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.’ Mark 12:41

‘As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.’ Luke 21:1

Jesus sat down, looked up and observed people contributing to the temple treasury. He saw many rich people deposit large offerings into the temple treasury.

The Temple Treasury

In the New Testament, there seems to be a lot of things happening in and around the temple treasury which is also known as the Court of Women. It was called the Court of the Women, as that is as far as women were allowed to enter the temple courts. It was in this court where Jesus was presented for purification as a child, the place where they met Simeon and Anna, Luke 2.25–38.

We know that Jesus taught in the treasury, Matthew 21.23 / John 7:14 / John 7:28 / John 8:2 / John 8:20, but one thing we should bear in mind is that He never actually entered the sanctuary itself because it was only the priests who were allowed to enter.

The treasury was a court that was located to the east of the temple itself, just below the Nicanor Gate. The Sanhedrin often met there, and it was here where they brought the woman who was supposedly caught in the act of adultery, John 8:1-20.

In the treasury, there were thirteen boxes on the wall, into which people could drop their offering money into. They are made of bronze and called trumpets because of their shape.

‘He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.’ Luke 21:2

‘But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.’ Mark 12:42

Not only did Jesus see many rich people deposit large offerings into the temple treasury, but He also saw an impoverished widow give two small coins which were nearly worthless.

The Copper Coins

The KJV uses the word ‘mite’ which was a very small Jewish coin called a ‘lepton’, meaning ‘the thin one’, it’s sometimes called a farthing or a penny, Luke 12:59, it was made of bronze or copper and was the smallest in terms of the value of all the Roman Coins, Mark 12:42.

Some commentators suggest that the Jewish law at the time, wouldn’t allow anyone to give less than two gifts, if this is true then it’s clear she gave the smallest amount legally possible.

How Did Jesus Know What She Gave?

I’ve personally held one of these coins in my hand and I must say it’s tiny, I would say around the size of our old British ½ pennies. How did Jesus know that this widow had given in two little coins? It’s possible that He saw them, we certainly know that He knows all things and all people but it’s also possible that the sound these coins made against the metal would have indicated how much people offered to the temple.

‘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

The Lord explained that the widow had contributed more than the rich, more than all of them put together is being suggested here, she put in everything she had, while the rich had simply given their left-over change.

This is the difference between a collection and an offering, when we stand outside a supermarket we usually find someone rattling a collection box and if we like the cause, well do our shopping and give them any spare change we have left over. An offering isn’t about giving the left-over change, it’s purposely given, the amount is purposely given, we give first then do whatever we need to do with the rest.

Why Did Jesus Commend The Widow’s Gift?

If she literally gave everything she had and only had two coins to her name, this speaks volumes about her faith in God to take care of her daily needs. Her offering was a reflection of her heart. What she gave was in accordance with God’s law, hence two coins and if that’s all she had, then it was truly a sacrificial gift because this meant she had nothing left.

She is the example of sacrificial living which is in contrast with those who spend their wealth on everything else but reluctantly give God the leftovers, Matthew 6:19-21. Her giving was easy because she knew her giving wouldn’t affect her lifestyle, she trusted in God and not in wealth. She gave because she truly loved God and expressed her love for Him through her giving, 2 Corinthians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 15:10.

Jesus Contradicts Modern Views Of Giving

Many modern churches seem to regard large donations more highly than small ones. Some honour wealthy donors in special ways and allow them more influence in church policy, occasionally they even ridicule small contributions as unworthy of the Lord. It’s clear that the Lord Himself viewed giving in a very different way.

Jesus wasn’t impressed by the size of the offering, whether large or small, but He was very concerned with the attitude of the giver. To Jesus, the gift of the widow, while having almost no monetary value, was worth much more than the large and impressive donations of the rich. We need to think of riches as Jesus did.


Jesus teaches us that giving has little to do with the amount we give but the attitude in which we give. He sees what we give, He knows the amount we give but He also knows how much we have kept back for ourselves. The poor among us should take great comfort from the widow’s example, and they should know that their ‘small’ offering is just as accepted by God as someone who is rich and making a ‘large’ offering.

Even today in our churches we have those who give a ‘large’ amount because they have to, God says, we MUST give! But then you get those others, who, out of a heart of thanksgiving for what God has done in their lives, may give ‘less’ because that’s all these have, but their hearts are right.

When we look at the Christian faith as a whole, we know that our faith isn’t just about receiving but it’s also about giving, Acts 20:35 / 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 / Philippians 4:8-18. To be a Christian means we need to be willing to sacrifice, even in our finances.

If we will first give ourselves to the Lord, 2 Corinthians 8:5 we will have no problem being liberal in our giving. Remember Jesus saw what the widow put into the temple treasury, so He still sees it today.

‘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 Corinthians 9:7