To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 1:1-6,8-20; Lk 21:1-4
Jesus’ comment on the widow’s offering follows immediately after his condemnation of the scribes, who “devour widow’s houses”. Luke omits most of Mark’s introduction to the widow’s offering (see Mark 12:41).
In the new scene, which Luke brings about by his comment that “He (Jesus) looked up and saw”, Luke introduces two sets of characters: the rich contributors and a poor widow. The action of both is the same. However, the size or amount of the gifts of the rich contributors is not mentioned, but it is explicitly stated that the widow put in two lepta, the smallest copper coins then in use. It would have taken 128 lepta to make one denarius, which was a day’s wage. Two lepta would therefore have been worthless. In a twist reminiscent of many of Jesus’ parables, Jesus states that the widow who put in what seems like a worthless amount has put in more than any of the rich contributors. The following statement clarifies how this could be. They contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty. They contributed gifts she contributed herself.
We are challenged by Jesus’ praise of the widow. When we give, do we give with complete devotion and selflessness that marked the widow’s gift or do we give expecting something in return? By what measures do we calculate our actions? By what standards do we judge ourselves and others?
Beyond the obvious, however, Jesus’ example teaches his disciples that part of seeking the kingdom requires vindicating the poor, the widows, and the orphans. Jesus recognized their inherent worth and called on the community to care for the weakest and neediest in their midst. He recognized that those who were often sustained by the gifts of others could themselves give gifts of great value. Without knowing it, the widow gave others a timeless example of selfless devotion to God.
Small gifts are often easily overlooked. Jesus, however, was able to SEE and RECOGNISE one of the neglected and her magnanimity.
The first observation that might be made about this scene is that Jesus noticed one of the neglected. By singling out the widow as exemplary, Jesus also rejected the subtle presumption that those who gave the great gifts were more important or better than the one whose gift was small because her means were limited.
In a society in which wealth is the measure of success and happiness, the wealthy are often esteemed and given special treatment, while the poor are judged as failures who could have done better if they had tried. A person’s value or worth as a human being is, therefore, measured by the evidence of his or her prosperity and possessions. Just as in the parables, Jesus’ pronouncement here reverses the norms and standards by which we are accustomed to living. He turns our world’s standards on their head. A widow or a homeless person’s gift to God or to others may be more important than the gifts of the wealthy.