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The Story Of The Widow’s Mite: Do We Have It Wrong?



I recently got a comment on this post where a commenter (thrufaithalone) brought up an interesting point about the Parable of the Widow’s Mite that I had not heard before.

I have always heard the story of the Widow’s Mite used in the context of sacrificial giving – as that seems to be the most common interpretation among Christians. But the commenter argues that it isn’t about that at all.

Anyway let’s first look at the passage of scripture starting a few verses earlier and going a couple beyond.

Mark 12:38-44

In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”

And He Sat Down Opposite The Treasury, And Began Observing How The People Were Putting Money Into The Treasury; And Many Rich People Were Putting In Large Sums. A Poor Widow Came And Put In Two Small Copper Coins, Which Amount To A Cent. Calling His Disciples To Him, He Said To Them, “Truly I Say To You, This Poor Widow Put In More Than All The Contributors To The Treasury; For They All Put In Out Of Their Surplus, But She, Out Of Her Poverty, Put In All She Owned, All She Had To Live On.”

Mark 13:1-2

As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

Below is the comment received from a reader about the Widow’s Mites passage (edited for brevity)…

The widow’s mite is not an example of how to give; it’s an example of how the scribes were “devouring widows’ houses”. Consider:

1. Jesus actually says NOTHING to commend the widow for what she did. Words of praise are ABSENT. NOTE: THERE ARE NO ADJECTIVES

2. Jesus’ statement is one of RELATING FACTS as He observes (She gave more than they all because she cast in all her living)

3. Jesus says NOTHING about how the widow FELT about what she gave. NOTE: THERE ARE NO ADVERBS.

4. The warning to beware of the scribes “who devour widows’ houses” in vs. 40 parallels Jesus’ use of a widow as His example.

5. If this were a lesson on giving, Jesus could have just as easily chosen a “poor man” as His example – or simply a “poor woman”, but He was very specific in His choice of “a poor widow.” This ties it to His criticism of the Scribes who He said were “devouring widows’ houses in vs. 40.

Scripture repeatedly reveals God’s care for the widow, the poor, the fatherless and the stranger, and also reveals His anger at those who deprive them of what they need to live.

If we have read all of our Bible, the story of the widow’s mites, given in context of Jesus’ condemnation of the religious leaders, should make us cringe. The story reveals the repetition of their abuses and consequential inevitable judgment.

It makes no sense that Jesus, who is in the middle of a warning to His disciples about the scribes devouring widows’ houses, would suddenly interrupt the lesson with a story on giving by poor widows. I believe that the story is part and parcel of His warning and an illustration of how the scribes were “devouring widows’ houses.”


Regardless of your interpretation of this verse, the Bible is still full of passages that emphasize the importance of giving – so I don’t think anything changes on that front, but it is interesting to see this passage in a new light.

What do you think – Do you see the Widow’s Mites story differently now?