In graduate school, I
thoroughly enjoyed my advanced social psychology
courses. It's the field where you study specific
observable behavior and draw hypothesis from those
observations. Social psychologists study the
functioning of groups. Small groups such as
families, committees, students groups, churches, or
groups of factory workers are excellent for such
studies. Psychologists gather data on matters such
as the relative effectiveness of groups and
individuals within the groups at accomplishing
specific tasks, the different forms of group
leadership, and conformity to standards set by the
Researchers examine the
dynamics of large social organizations, such as an
army, a church, denomination or the labor force at a
factory. They determine such matters as
communication procedures within the organization,
decision making and other forms of power, control,
freedom and the interaction of different influences
on members' behavior. Contemporary research,
especially in industrial relations, has considered
how the structure of an organization can be changed
and what the effects of such changes are likely to
Let's become amateur
social psychologist for a few moments. The first
thing we want to do is to observe an area of
interest. We want to spend some time just watching,
observing and taking notes. We want to collect our
At the beginning of our
worship service today we asked to you keenly observe
the behavior in this auditorium. We asked you to
watch those who are involved in the prayers, music,
instrumentalists, offering, etc. We have also been
watching one another and our reactions to various
modes of worship.
Based upon what has been
observed for the last thirty minutes we can draw up
a working hypothesis. It should be kept in mind that
a hypothesis is to be kept open and will change as
more data is received. Often, we make decisions and
are critical of those in positions because we do not
have all the information. We don't have the total
picture. Our knowledge of a situation is limited.
In my observation of this
group of people between eleven and eleven–thirty my
hypotheses is they are enjoying singing Christian
hymns, and are enthusiastic about what the LORD God
is doing in their lives. They believe God answers
prayer, and are excited about the fact that He wants
to be the Lord and Master of their lives. There is a
contagious spirit that moves through this group of
people. I think they are vitally involved in
worshipping God. This could possibly be a group of
people ready for God to invite them to come and join
Him in the work He is doing.
In Mark chapter twelve
and Luke twenty–one we find Jesus keenly observing
the behavior of people as they come and go through
the Women's Court in the Temple at Jerusalem. It has
been a very taxing day. A "great crowd enjoyed
listening to Him" (v. 37). At the same time, He has
confronted the hypocritical attitudes of the
Pharisees, and all day long has been interrogated by
the scribal lawyers. One after another they have
come confronting Jesus in the Temple as He was
teaching. It was a day of open hostility. The
Pharisees and Herodians have tried to "trap Him in a
statement" (Mark 12:13), and the Sadducees have
tried to trick Him up on the doctrine of the
resurrection and after life. It had been a
AN OBSERVATION BY
How did Jesus handle the
criticism, the antagonism and the hypocrisy of the
religious leaders? What can we learn from observing
His behavior and listening to His responses in this
Let's use our
observation skills on a few verses of Scripture.
Jesus had been teaching
in the Court of the Gentiles, and had passed within
the lower marble wall that fenced off the inner
precinct of the Temple from the Gentiles. Jesus
entered the Court of the Women where He could see
the 13 shopharoth, trumpet shaped chests, or
collection boxes for the tithes and offerings. They
were located in the area where worshipers could
easily place their gifts as they were coming and
going. These collection boxes were placed at
intervals around the walls, each one was lettered to
indicate which offerings were to be placed in them.
The colonnade was called The Treasury. It is a vast
space where 15,000 worshipers could easily be
Jesus seated Himself so
He could observe people's behavior in the Women's
Court. He sat watching, "how the multitude cast
money into the treasury" (v. 41). Williams'
translation gives us the idea that Jesus "sat down
in front of the collection–box" and "observed" the
people coming and going. He repeatedly watched the
different persons who passed by and how they
"dropped their money into the chest" (NEB). They
"were repeatedly casting their money into the
treasury." "Many rich people were throwing in large
sums." I am sure if we were there we could hear the
loud clanging of the silver and gold coins as they
clattered inside the brass trumpet collection boxes.
We see a woman and Jesus.
The woman is nameless. We have no record of any word
she uttered. As far as we know our Lord did not
speak to her. Most likely, she never knew what Jesus
said concerning her. She simply passed along with
the crowd, carefully placed her two mites into the
horn shaped vessel and passed on by out the women's
courts, not saying a word to anyone. She went her
way in abject poverty and loneliness. The word for
"poor" is ptochos, and describes abject
poverty of a pauper rather than a poor peasant. She
is in real danger of imminent starvation. What Jesus
has to say is to His disciples, apparently
semi-privately because He called His disciples to
Himself to say what He had to say.
Frances Ridley Havergale
caught the heart of this event with the words in his
"Take my silver and my
Not a mite would I
Mark tells us in 12:41;
Jesus "beheld" the people casting in their money.
The verb is in the imperfect tense, and suggests not
a passing glance, but careful watching. Jesus began
carefully observing their behavior. He was taking
careful note of specific, observable behavior.
The time was late on the
same day in which He had been confronted with the
criticism of the clever, cynical religious leaders.
It's "show and tell"
"He "beheld how they cast
into the treasury" (v. 41).
Certainly there is a link
between the final denunciation of hypocrisy in the
rulers and the thoughts of the watching Jesus.
The rich were casting
"large sums" into the collection vessels. In the
original language it is literally "many," i.e.,
handful of coins (v. 41). The nominal religion was
full of pomp and show.
Jesus saw one lonely
woman coming in the crowd, and carefully placed two
very small coins (v. 42). The lepton was the
smallest Jewish copper coin. It was worth maybe an
eighth of a cent. She was poverty–stricken. The word
"poor" is in the emphatic position in the original.
It was "all her living." It was her livelihood. It
was all she had. The woman had nothing else at the
moment upon which to depend for her very existence.
There were no Certificate of Deposit's stashed away
in the bank, no Social Security, no IRA's, 401K's,
etc. The last two coins she possessed were of the
smallest currency value. The woman was in abject
poverty. She laid these two copper coins in the
Jesus seated Himself so
he could watch "how the multitude cast money into
the treasury" (v. 41).
He was not so much
concerned with what they gave as with how they gave
it. Jesus saw the attitude of the soul. He was
observing the spirit of the giving.
The rich people were
giving their leftovers! She gave sacrificially of
everything she had.
INTERPRETATION OF THE
Who gave the most?
On God's scales, the
woman's gift out–weighed the rest. Jesus said she
had cast in more than they all did. That is more
than saying she had given more than anyone else that
day (v. 43). Jesus called His disciples over to Him
and said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor
widow put in more than all the contributors to the
treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus,
but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned,
all she had to live on" (vv. 43–44).
In the assessment of
Jesus these two small copper coins were like two
sparkling eternal large carat diamonds. On eternal
scales they out weighted all the rest in the
treasury. They were an eternal weight of glory in
This widow's gift
amounted to more in the balances of heaven than all
that had been put in by the whole crowd. Those two
very tiny coins outweighed all the rest. The rich
people gave out of their abundance. She gave out of
her insufficiency. They gave out of surplus; she
gave out of need. Literally, she gave "her whole
livelihood." It has the idea of "the means by which
life is sustained." The widow gave out of true
devotion to God. God was the only one who saw her as
she placed her tiny coins in the vessel.
It is not how much we
give to God, but how much we hold on to for
ourselves. Have we given Him our all?
behind the gift.
The principle behind her
giving was the fact that she endured "as seeing Him
Who is invisible." The only thing that counts with
God is faith. This little widow was rich in faith in
Her behavior revealed her
faith in God. She knew that God owned it all. He was
the creator and redeemer. She knew he would not fail
her. He was going to sacrifice everything for her!
Before the week was over He was going to give up His
most precious possession in heaven for her. He will
provide for all her needs. Her vision of God, her
faith in Him, demanded that she devote all to Him.
It is a walk of faith. No
provision was made for tomorrow. Human wisdom would
have declared she certainly under these conditions
had better keep everything she had. She might starve
to death if she gives these last two small coins to
God. She kept nothing, but gave all she had. As the
Macedonians she first gave herself to the Lord (cf.
2 Cor. 8:5). The rich religious leaders gave
generous contributions, but she gave a true
sacrifice to the Lord.
Jesus is still
Hebrews 4:13 says, "And
there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all
things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him
with whom we have to do." (Cf. 2 Chron. 16:9; Prov.
When we give
sacrificially we are giving based upon God's
abundant grace. He observes our giving in proportion
to our means. Grace giving is always sacrificial
giving. It is based upon the great sacrifice God
made in sending Jesus as our substitute on the
cross. "For we know the grace of our Lord Jesus
Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake
He became poor, that you through His poverty might
become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).
When we give even very
small gifts from the heart we are giving gifts of
infinite value. The Lord observes the motive that
prompts our giving. Remember the tragic results of
deceit in the life of Ananias and Sapphira who sold
their property and kept back some of their profit
for themselves? The apostle Peter said to Ananias,
"Ananias, why has Satan filled your heat to lie to
the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price
of the land? While it remained not sold, did it not
remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not
under your control? Why is it that you have
conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied
to men, but God." Ananias fell down and breathed his
last as Peter was saying these words (Acts 5:1–6).
Young men in the church took him out and buried him.
His wife came in a little while later and the same
kind of discipline took place again. A "great fear
came upon the whole church" when they took her out
and likewise buried her (5:7–11).
When we receive greater
knowledge and opportunities for service there comes
with it greater responsibility.
is More than Money.
There is more than money
involved in this picture of Jesus and the woman in
the Temple. It is a principle of life. It is the
very heart of stewardship based on grace. All I am
is His. As a redeemed person God owns it all. There
is nothing in my life that does not first belong to
Him. "You have been bought with a price: therefore
glorify God with your body" (2 Corinthians 6:20).
Earlier Jesus told the Corinthians, "you belong to
Christ; and Christ belongs to God" (3:23). You
belong to God! If you are owned by Christ, that
means your body, your mind, your time, your will,
your talent and your material assets all belong to
Christ. You belong to another and you own nothing.
God owns it all.
The rich had given much,
but it really cost them nothing for it was merely
the "overflow" of their lavish accounts. The woman's
gift cost her everything––"her whole livelihood" (v.
44). This lesson of Christ is vitally significant
for us. God measures our giving not by how much we
give, but by how much we have left over after we
give! Grace giving is sacrificial giving. It is
giving until it hurts.
The giving that catches
God's eye is not necessarily great in amount but in
percentage. In the early days of his business, J. C.
Penney tithed 10% of all his income. As the years
increased, so did his percentage of giving so that
by the time he died, he was giving 90% of all his
earnings to the Lord's work.
Sacrificial giving has a
kind of recklessness about it. It holds nothing
back. It has learned to give as God gave to us. The
greatest example is His Son (Phil. 2:5-8).
This attitude toward
grace giving is at the heart of the gospel of Jesus
Christ. It bids us come and surrender to Christ and
trust Him with every need, every care, and every
provision in life. It is total absolute trust in
Him. “My God shall supply all your needs according
to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians
Our day is no different
than in Jesus’ day. Jesus warned against the craving
to be somebody. The religious leaders wanted to be
prominent, honored and wealthy. They lived for
appearance, performance and status in life. Jesus
rebuked their sham. He condemned religion for profit
and gain. He was opposed to what you can do for me,
and what can I get out of it religion. Going to
church is often like going to Marti Gras, "Throw me
something mister!" "Throw me something mister!"
It has never entered most
of our minds what God can do with us if we choose to
surrender ourselves unreservedly to Him. Are you
willing to abandon yourself to Him?
Robert Arthington of
Leeds, a Cambridge graduate, lived in a single room,
cooked his own meals and gave to foreign missions
over approximately 2.5 million dollars. He wrote
this, "Gladly would I make the floor my bed, a box
my chair, and another box my table, rather than that
men should perish for want of the knowledge of
The man or woman who
deeply desires to please the Lord will evidence this
true spirituality by sacrificial giving, for their
attitude will be the same as David's, ". . . nor
will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with
that which costs me nothing" (2 Sam 24:24).
That's grace living
and grace giving.
The writer Thomas Carlyle
dearly loved his wife. She was also his secretary.
However, Carlyle was thoughtlessly absorbed with his
personal and professional interests, and treated his
wife as if she were still his employee.
Mrs. Carlyle was confined
to her bed for many months during a long terminal
illness. After the funeral, Carlyle went back to the
empty lonely house. Grieving deeply he wandered
around aimlessly downstairs in the house, engrossed
in his thoughts about the woman he so loved. He went
upstairs to her bedroom and sat in a chair beside
her bed. Thoughts flooded his heart as he sat
reflecting on the fact that he hadn't been there
very often during her long illness because he
couldn't bear the thought of losing her and it was
incredibly difficult bearing his feelings.
Carlyle saw her diary
lying near by and picked it up. He never would have
read it while she was still alive. He began to leaf
through the pages. "Yesterday," she wrote, "he spent
an hour with me. And it was like being in heaven. I
love him so much." He turned a few more pages and
read, "I listened all day to hear his steps in the
hallway. And now it’s late, I guess he won't come to
see me." Carlyle read a few more entries and then
threw the book on the floor and ran out into the
rain back to the cemetery. He fell on his wife's
grave in the mud, sobbing, "If only I had known. . .
if only I had known" (Clarence Macartney,
Oh, my friend. As you
travel through life, don't forget to give a few
mites along the way. They are precious diamonds
laced in gold.
Title: Mark 12:41-44
The Widow's Mite