The Widow With Two Mites, Luke 21:1-4

Here's the story: 

"As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

This story took place on the third day of Jesus' Passion Week, the days preceding His death on the cross, and was the last day of His public ministry--the last day He taught in the temple, warned the religious rulers of the judgment to come, and the last day He would call people to repentance.

This last day began with Jesus walking along one of the outer porticoes that surroundedHerod's magnificent, gold-covered temple edifice. It was the habit of rabbis to come to these glistening porches to teach, especially during the three great festivals--Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

As Jesus was teaching, there came the religious authorities, once again seeking to maneuver Jesus into a theological and/or political corner. They had stood by with impotent rage, as Jesus cleared the temple earlier in the week. They had watched incredulously, as Jesus entered Jerusalem among the joyful praises of the people. They had quietly grated their teeth, as Jesus rebuked them, and taught the people, with adroit intelligence and wisdom.

The Jewish religious leaders were infuriated with Jesus’ indictment of them. In their plot to kill Him, they tried to weaken His power base by manipulating Him with carefully loaded questions. They hoped either Jesus would incriminate Himself and get arrested, or His teaching would make Him unpopular with the people.

Jesus may very well have been standing in that area of the temple where people brought their gifts to drop into the offering boxes dotted along the outer courtyard. As people came to pay their temple tax, it seems the religious authorities saw their opportunity. As it was the Passover, with tensions running high between the Jews and the Roman military presence, they decided to talk about Rome's heavy imperial taxes levied against them. The Jews actually had to pay three kinds of taxes to the Romans. They paid a farm tax, an income tax, and a poll tax that was a lot like the temple tax.

Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

If The Lord said “no”, the Herodians would report Him for sedition. He would be liable for trial, arrested, and imprisoned.

If the Lord said yes, all the people would have been against Him. Since Caesar considered himself a god, many Jews felt it was unfaithful to Jehovah to give God’s money to a pagan king. 

"Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.”

Like the temple tax, the poll tax had to be paid in the coin of the realm, so Jesus asked for the poll tax coin

They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

As soon as a king came to the throne he struck his own coins. That coinage was considered his property.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Every believer has a dual citizenship: in the country you live in and in the kingdom of God, and must render all that is due, to both kingdoms. Jesus had once again silenced the religious authorities with His wisdom and authority.

Jesus continued to teach the people who gathered around Him, then walked towards the Court of the Women, where He sat to rest. The time of sacrifices had past, most people had gone back into the city, and those who lingered were there for private prayer, private sacrifices, or to pay their vows and offerings. All along the colonnades were thirteen trumpet-shaped boxes called "Shopharoth," to receive religious and charitable contributions.

Each Shopharoth had an inscription designating the purpose of the offerings--to make amends for past neglect, to pay for certain sacrifices, to provide incense, wood, or other gifts for temple worship, to provide for orphans and widows, and so on. Because the boxes were in full view of all who passed by, it was an opportunity for the wealthy to make a great show of their generous giving, the gold and silver coins making a distinctive, musical sound as they poured into the trumpets' mouths.

In fact, it was for just this sort of ostentatious giving Jesus had already condemned the Pharisees. Because they considered themselves faultless, according to the law, they assumed God’s obligation to honor them and they expected high praise from others, making a big show of holiness and humility. Pharisees wanted it all. They wanted to be seen as perfectly obedient to God, but they also wanted what they wanted. So they interpreted God’s word in such a way as to make it easy for them to get what they wanted and still look like they were being perfectly obedient to God.

The Pharisees had constructed their version of the holy life that was all about the externals, following lots of rules and regulations, measured in terms of religious activities and conformity to what they said looked good. The Pharisees were proud of their own religiosity, and expected other people to honor them for it. So they would make a great show of dedicating land and wealth to the temple, which they could still use for religious purposes, but which was protected from having to be payed out for the care of their aging parents, or others in private need. 

In contrast, Jesus commended the widow who waited till everyone had left the premises, and she could come alone, to quietly give all she had--only two pennies--to the Lord, for His use, because she loved God, and did not want to come to Him empty-handed. The impoverished widow put her whole livelihood, her dinner, into God's hands, and entrusted herself to Him.

Sacrificial gifts are precious to God   

All passages taken from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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