Ever been inside a large, crowded casino? It is an assault on the senses – colors, people and noise. Slot machines dominate with music, bells, beeps and the sound of coins. Coins dropping into the trays below with every win – over and over and over…
Jesus is in the temple of Jerusalem (Luke 20), teaching and preaching the gospel to the people. The temple would have been very crowded; it was days before the Passover, the highest holy day for Jews, many would have made the journey to the city to remember God’s deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian bondage with the Passover meal.
Jesus must be been in the Court of the Women, off to the side is the Temple Treasury. History records that the Temple Treasury was an area set apart to receive offerings. There were thirteen boxes set around the walls and each box had a large, trumpet-like opening; the faithful would put their coins into these trumpets. In my mind it must have sounded a lot like a casino floor minus the beeps and bells. In the midst of all this noise, the press of people, Jesus notices a single woman (Luke 21).
A poor widow who puts her two tiny coins into the opening and walks away. The tiny tinkle made by her little coins was probably lost in the cacophony of the larger and more numerous coins of other givers yet Jesus sees and hears her. If the story ended right at that moment it would be enough for me because this incident is one of those that makes me love Jesus. Women in Jesus’ day were looked down upon, men did not speak or even look at women in public, they were on the edge of society but Jesus changed that – He spoke to women, He looked them in the eye, He treated women with respect and honor – I love this about Jesus!
Jesus also observed the rich putting their coins; He was watching HOW they gave. Many of them made a big show of their generosity; they wanted to be noticed and to be known as big givers. Jesus had just warned His disciples about these religious phonies who wanted the admiration of the people but “devoured” widows by taking advantage of their desperation.
Jesus commends the widow, not for the AMOUNT of her gift, but for it’s COST. Those two tiny coins were all she had to give and it cost her everything to give them. She gives in obedience and out of love, not seeking any notice or reward. She had to work her way through the crowd to put her coins in, being jostled, and possibly scorned or mocked as she pushed up to the trumpet.
The widow’s gift causes me to examine my own heart towards giving. What is my true motivation for giving? Do I only give when it is easy/comfortable? Do I give with a poor or begrudging attitude? Is my gift for “show”, because I have to or because I want to. Slot machines no longer accept or pay out in actual coins. When you collect your winnings a paper receipt prints out which you can use in another machine or redeem for cash. As the receipt is printing you hear the sound of coins dropping into a tray – it is an illusion, a sham. Jesus saw what was phony, He saw what was real – Oh God, help me be real…
Search me, O God and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting…Psalm 139:23