And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.…
If we get a single ray of light, decompose and analyze it, we may argue from it to all the light that floods the world; to its nature, its source, and its effects. So this act of generosity and devotion, simple and slight though it is in itself, contains in it elements of truth which are world-wide in application. Amongst the many lessons it teaches, we select the following: -
I. THAT GOD'S PEOPLE ARE EXPECTED TO BE GIVERS. Many have a singular objection to insistence upon that. They willingly listen to words of solace; they rejoice in descriptions of heaven; they are not reluctant to hear the errors of their theological antagonists exposed and rebuked: but the duty of Christian giving is scarcely so popular with them However. "It is enough for the servant that he be as his Master;" and we find that he who taught in the temple also "beheld how the people cast money into the treasury." That treasury was a Divine institution. In spite of abuses, it was for many generations a witness of what God expects; as a recognition of his claims, and of the claims of others, on the part of rich and poor. If God is our Creator and Preserver, if every day we live and every power we have is his gift, we must honor him "with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase." If he has redeemed us by his Son, if "we are not our own, but bought with a price," any sacrifice we make in gift or work should be a source of joy. If we be members of one brotherhood, we are bound to have the same care one for another. We are to do this, not in the way which is easiest to ourselves, most accordant with our tastes, or most likely to bring us credit; but as those who are seeking to become like him, who is kind to the unthankful and to the unworthy.
II. THAT SOME KINDS OF GIVING ARE OF HIGHER WORTH THAN OTHERS. Our Lord did not blame or despise the gifts which the rich made when they cast in much. They were doing what was right. Whether their offerings went to support the temple, or as a substitute for sacrifices, or for distribution to the poor, they were given towards what was regarded as the work of God. But there was nothing in the offering of the rich which called for the special praise bestowed on the widow.
1. It is to be observed here that Christ commended what most people would blame. You would probably argue thus: "Two mites were of little importance to the treasury, but of great importance to her. If she had given one and kept the ether, she would have showed not only piety, but good sense. As it was her gift was insignificant, and at the same time it was rash and needless." Yet, in the eyes of our Lord, the gift was right; and it was commended for this very reason - that she had cast in all the living that she had. We cannot but be reminded here of an incident in the house of Simon. When Mary broke the alabaster box, and poured the spikenard on her Savior's head, the disciples said that it was a foolish impulse - that if sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor, it would have been of real utility; now a waste of the ointment had been made. In reply, Jesus taught them that nothing given to God was wasted; that the aroma of such an offering went beyond the world of sense. On both occasions our Lord commended what others blamed.
2. Further, the reason for his commendation was not what many would expect. It was not the value of the gift; for two mites was a smaller sum than we could give if we tried to find our smallest coin. Nor was it the object to which the money was given which Christ approved. He knew how much there was of what was false under the glitter of the ceremonial worship of the temple. He had just rebuked the very men who would manipulate these funds. He looked on to the day when the temple would perish, and a nobler Church would arise on its ruins. Hence, in commending the widow's gift, which supported this ritual, he condemned those who withhold their help till an organization is exactly what they wish - who refuse to support what does not accord precisely with their tastes and views. Those who habitually do this crush in their hearts the germ from which gift and sacrifice spring.
3. The widow's gift was approved because it was the offering of a simple heart, full of love to God. She wished to show gratitude, and to give a deliberate expression of her confidence in God; and therefore she gave up her living, and threw herself on him who feeds the birds, and never forgets his children.
4. Most of all the gift was valued because it represented self-sacrifice. They gave of their abundance she gave all her living; in other words, herself. Too often we lose the highest blessedness because we do not cross the border-line which lies between self-indulgence and Christ-likeness. When we begin to feel that some service is a burden, and demands a strain, we give it up to some one else to whom the effort would be less! Let us seek the spirit of the poor widow, who knew that God could do without her gift, but felt that her love could not be satisfied without her sacrifice.
III. THAT OUR LORD QUIETLY WATCHES OUR GIFTS AND SERVICES. We may put into the treasury wealth, talents, prayers, tears, etc. None are unnoticed by him. And he looks in order to approve, not to condemn. His disciples might have said, "She is imprudent to give her all; she is priest-ridden; she is supporting a formal worship which is a barrier to the kingdom of Christ." But the Lord looked beneath the surface. He saw the pious intention, the pure purpose, and out of all the chaff on that threshing-floor he found one grain of purity and reality, and rejoiced over it as one finding great spoil.
IV. THAT OUR LORD APPROVES ALL THAT IS DONE IN A RIGHT SPIRIT. He did not praise her to her face, nor in her hearing. When the delicate flower of devotion is taken in the hot hand of popular applause, it withers; but, left in the cool shadow of secrecy, it lives. Hence the widow heard no flattery or approval, though she went home with inward satisfaction because she had done what she could. It is a pleasure to make a sacrifice for one we love. The young girl gives up her money, her position, her future, herself, to the man she loves, and rejoices in doing it. The father will not begrudge it when he looks at his children's faces, though for their sakes he goes off in a shabby coat to his daily duty. Love longs for sacrifice, and glories in making it. Now, it is a sacrifice so inspired which our God approves and commends. In the day when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, when nothing will be overlooked, services which the doer had forgotten, which the Church thought trivial and the world laughs to scorn, will be recompensed, and even "a cup of cold water, given in the name of a disciple, will not lose its reward" - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.