Monetarily speaking, the greatest giver of all time was not a rich industrialist who made his billions and then contributed a portion of his wealth to philanthropic efforts. Instead, it was a poor widow who placed two small coins in the treasury of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Her story is told in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4.
The Greek word that is used to describe each of her offertory coins is lepton. This was the smallest coin in circulation in Israel. In our American economy, such a coin would be the equivalent of one-eighth of a penny. In other words, it would take eight such coins to add up to even one penny.
The plural of lepton is leptra. In the Roman empire under which the Jews lived, the widow’s offering of two leptra was the equivalent of one-sixty-fourth of a Roman denarius. Since a denarius was the average daily wage for a worker, the poor widow would have had to repeat her offering 63 more times just to reach the monetary equivalent of an average day’s pay for a Roman.
In his commentary notes on the story, Herschel H. Hobbs explains that the widow gave her offering in The Court of the Women, the part of the Jewish Temple complex that was devoted to women. He goes on to say there were thirteen receptacles in that Court. These receptacles were called “trumpets” because of their shape, and each “trumpet” was designated to receive specific offerings for specific purposes.
What the widow didn’t know was that she was being watched as she placed her two leptra inside the appropriate receptacle. On that day, Jesus was sitting on the other side of the Court watching people come and go and place their offerings inside the receptacles. When He saw the widow contribute her scant offering, He called the chosen 12 over to Himself and told them that she had contributed more than anyone else who had given to the Temple treasury.
How could that be? According to Jesus, all the others contributed out of their abundance, but she contributed out of her poverty. As a matter of fact, He went so far as to say that she contributed her entire livelihood. That means that when she left the Temple that day, she didn’t have any money whatsoever to her name.
Tell me, if you had been in that woman’s place, do you think you would have been tempted to not give any offering at all? Even if you were determined to contribute something, would you have been inclined to contribute one lepton and hold back the other one? I’m sure that thought would have crossed my mind,
Being a widow, it’s not like she could depend upon her husband to meet her future financial needs, either. In that way, her placing both those coins in that receptacle was an act of real faith. It was her acknowledgement that if her needs got met, God would have to meet them. Even if she did hold down some type of job (which was certainly not a given in that culture), it obviously didn’t pay much.
Now, there are numerous spiritual lessons that we can glean from this story, but for the purposes of this post I just want to leave you with one. It goes like this: As far as the Bible’s records goes, this woman lived her entire earthly life and never knew that Jesus not only noticed her offering but praised it to the skies. You see, that widow’s offering is like the myriads of good deeds that Christians do around the world each day. These deeds go completely unnoticed and unrecognized by the world, but they rate high marks with Jesus and earn great rewards in eternity.
So, Christian, take heart in this and keep faithfully serving the Lord. He really is watching, and all those behind-the-scenes good things you are doing for Him really are getting noticed. Even more than that, in eternity He’ll reward you for them with eternal blessings beyond your wildest dreams. Remember, nothing ever goes unnoticed by Him. Yes, that can be a bad thing when the subject is sin, but it can be a great thing when the subject is holy deeds.