It was towards the end of the third day of His presence in Jerusalem. On the first He had come riding upon a colt (Mk 11.7-11); on the second He had cast the money changers out of the Temple (Mk 11.15); on the third He had engaged in debate (Mk 11.27; 12.13,18,28). It had been a time of intense activity that must have caused great fatigue.
But now He sat. It was Passover, and in the temple courts would be seen the milling crowds from all corners of the empire who had come to celebrate the Feast. He sat near to the Treasury, a long receptacle from which rose thirteen trumpet shaped openings into which the people were casting their offerings for the maintenance of that great building and those who served in it. The rich came and cast in their gifts, many doubtless using the opportunity to display their wealth - to see and be seen.
Shortly, the Lord would leave the temple for the last time, but before He did so He had one last observation to make, one last telling lesson for us all to learn. Quietly, unnoticed, alone, and obviously of interest to no-one, a poor widow approached with her offering. She sought no recognition; she did not speak to the Lord and He did not speak to her. On the first day when He entered the Temple He stood silently and observed all that was taking place (Mk 11.11). Now He is silently observing again. On the first occasion He saw nothing to give Him joy. The true Shekinah had come to the House and had not been recognised or welcomed. On this last day there is something to touch His heart. What He did not receive from priest or Levite He enjoyed from an impecunious widow.
She had so little to give. She carried in her hands two mites. She would have been excused if she had given nothing, so frugal were her resources; it would be understandable if she had given one and kept the other, even although it could purchase little. But her heart would not let her hold back. Her devotion spurred her on, and both coins, all that she had, were given to the God whom she loved.
How little was it worth in the currency of earth. A mite was the smallest coin with the lowest value. At that time two of them made one farthing, four farthings made an ass, and ten asses made a denarius, which was the pay for one day of manual labour (Mt 20.2). If a twelve hour day is supposed as normal at that time, her two mites constituted payment for eighteen minutes of work.
Unseen by all, the Lord nevertheless observed her. The others had given out of wealth, gifts that did not involve sacrifice. She had given out of poverty; her gift involved true sacrifice. He alone knew what others did not, that as she had left her home that day she had with her all her wealth and that to be given ungrudgingly.
Surely this was recklessness? Would common sense not demand that she care for herself first? Was this now taking devotion to extremes never asked by the Lord? Had the world known, it would have pointed an accusing finger at this lonely figure. But there was another assessment made - the only one that is of eternal value. He measured her devotion and turned the currency of earth into the currency of heaven. Measured against the gifts of the wealthy she had given more than them all. The measurement was not according to the value of the coinage she cast in, but according to the value of what she had left. We do not know what meal she had that day, but we do know the she would eat. The Lord had her in His care.
At the beginning of another year let us pause and take stock. May we learn that our work is not for displaying to others. The value is not measured so much by how much we give of our time and our resources. It is measured by how much we keep back. We may not be called to give away all that we have, but we are called to devote it all to Him. As this new year begins its course let us follow the example of a widow whose decision that day has encouraged others for almost two thousand years, but has been recorded for eternity. May we all make this the year when we devote all that we have to Him.