by Terry M. Smith
Jesus “saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’” (Luke 21:1-4).
Two misunderstandings are common with this passage. First, some Christians think they can equally honour Christ by giving small coins. Certainly, small coins do add up and can make a difference; but giving them is not the same as this widow’s act unless it empties our bank account (“all she had to live on”).
My wife Mary Ann enjoys telling the story of Tony Campolo, who was asked by a women’s group to pray for funds for a project. He refused, saying that if the women stepped forward to empty their purses, the need would be met. The women were unhappy with his counsel, but stepped forward and met the need.
Second, as others have said, that the Lord honoured the widow doesn’t mean he endorsed her giving away what was required for her basic needs. Jesus rebuked pious children who thought they were excused from caring for their parents (Mark 7:9-13), families and the Church are to care for widows in need (Acts 6:1, 1 Tim. 5:3-8), and the Church is to seek justice for widows (Mark 12:40, Deut. 27:19). Sometimes pious widows need protection from others, misguided teaching, and even themselves.