The Last Cent

Read: Mark 12:38-44

A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins. (v. 42)

Context is crucial when interpreting Scripture, and I’ve included a few verses preceding the story of the widow’s offering to help place it into context. Many commentators believe that Jesus was criticizing a corrupt religious system for taking this poor widow’s last penny more than praising the widow. How would you feel if you learned a weak and vulnerable relative had given her last cent to a religious charlatan? No wonder he tossed over the tables of the moneychangers in the temple.

Note that Jesus does not praise the widow any more than he discounts the gifts of the rich. He simply asks his disciples to pay attention to the widow (the poor often are invisible) and notice what sacrificial giving looks like.

Context is crucial, and the larger context here is the end of Jesus’ life. As Barbara Brown Taylor has suggested, perhaps Jesus wants the disciples to notice the widow because she reminds him of someone. “In four days he will be dead, having uncurled his fingers from around his own offering, to give up the two copper coins of his life” (The Preaching Life).

Jesus is teaching that a key question for his followers is not “How much will I give?” but “What will I hold back?” Jesus, like the poor widow, held nothing back. He gave his life as a ransom for many. —Jeff Munroe

As you pray, ask Jesus to help you learn to live and give as his follower.

About the Author

Jeff Munroe

Jeff Munroe is the editor of theReformed Journaland, in addition to being the author of the best-selling book Reading Buechner: Exploring the Work of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacher, is also a poet, blogger, and essayist. His work has appeared in Christianity Today, The Christian Century, US Catholic, and The Reformed Journal.

This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series Living Generously

I Am