Contrasting the story of the religious leaders who exploit poor widows, in Mark 12:41-44, Jesus points out a poor widow. The important and wealthy people are throwing large sums of money into the temple offering and they are making sure everyone sees them do it. In the middle of this, along comes a poor widow and she drops two small coins into the offering. The value of these two coins was about 1/64th of what a laborer might earn in a day. Let’s say a person in our day makes $100 in a day, this offering would be $1.56. She had only two coins, she could have kept one for food or something, but she gave both.
There were others in the Temple whose spirituality was noticed. The wealthy threw lots of money in the offering and it made them look and feel spiritual. Yet, their spirituality cost them very little. It didn’t require them to sacrifice. Everyone recognized they must be very spiritual because of their show they put on. But truly and deeply, their spirituality was anemic and had no substance. Yet this woman’s genuine spiritually goes unnoticed because she only tossed in two coins. She has done what Jesus said his followers must do – deny themselves and take up the cross. She has loved God truly and authentically, unlike the others, yet no one even knows about it.
What Jesus points out here is that her worship and love for God was true and genuine. Even the person of humble circumstances can come before God in worship. God doesn’t consider one’s wealth or social status when we come in genuine worship. She had no means and no influence yet she worshipped God properly.
Jesus talks about money enough to make it uncomfortable for us. But, really this passage is about a person’s heart. This poor widow’s heart belonged to God. The wealthy people worshipped themselves, not God. Where we place our money is a great indicator of whether or not our hearts belong to God. The way we give tells us a lot about the condition of our hearts. The way we see others give tells us little about the condition of their hearts. Whether you see someone give or not, whether you see the amount they give or not, only God knows their situation and motives.
In discussing this passage, it isn’t necessarily vital to apply it in the context of giving money to the church, although that is important. What is most important though, is that you understand money in terms of worship. Let it be a means of worship rather than an object of worship. Be generous and honor God with your money whether you place it in a basket at church, or give it randomly to those in need, or contribute to alleviating poverty in 3rd world countries through microfinancing. There are lots of ways to worship through giving. Be like this widow. Have no concern for what others see, but use your money as a physical and tangible way of worshipping God. We can worship God by giving in a way that only he knows. Do it publicly, do it secretly, but worship him in this way.
If Jesus is not Lord over your life, you will find yourself worshipping yourself, or your money, or your desires, or any number of other things. Life is disjointed, it’s out of sync when we worship ourselves or other things. Worship Jesus, not your money.