Yesterday morning, I preached from Mark 12:41-44 in our series through the Gospel of Mark. After exposing the scribes to the people as He taught in the temple, Jesus then turned to engage in a little people watching across from the treasury. Apparently He was located inside the court of women, because the main character in Jesus’ story is a poor widow woman. Although she was poor, she approached the offering box and gave all that she had to live on. We can learn several things from this real event, two of which I would like to share.
The Observation of Motives
Occasionally I enjoy engaging in a little people watching when I’m at the mall. I think everyone to some degree enjoys watching people walk by in the mall, on the beach, or in the park. However, Jesus wasn’t merely watching people approach the offering boxes. Jesus was looking beyond their outer appearances as He could see their true motives.
There were thirteen trumpet shaped boxes that lined the walls of the temple. People would approach them and put offerings in the boxes that were designated for specific purposes. Jesus observed the people putting in money, and He could discern their heart as they engaged in this act of worship. As Jesus watched the offering on that day in the temple, William Hendriksen writes, “In a sense, he has been doing this ever since and is still doing it.”  As we learn in the Scriptures, man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).
As Jesus examined the offering, He not only could see the heart of the people, but He could likewise discern the amount of their offering. According to Jesus, many rich people were putting in large sums, but the poor widow woman only put in two small copper coins. These coins were small thin coins – less than a centimeter in diameter and worth approximately 1/64 of a denarius (a typical day’s wage). The point that we must not miss is that Jesus was looking at the amount of the gift and as Hendriksen stated earlier, He does the same in our day.
The Exhortation to Receive
From this event, we can learn several important lessons. First of all, the big giver may not always be the biggest giver. Jesus made a sobering statement, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.” Jesus knew that her sacrifice was greater than the rich people who approached the offering box. They had given out of their wealth, but she had given out of her poverty. In other words, she was not giving from excess.
Randy Alcorn once said, “God doesn’t look at just what we give. He also looks at what we keep.”  Apparently this widow had learned to look at the birds of the air and observe how God takes care of them every day without large barns of excess stored up for a rainy day. She learned the principle taught in Matthew 6:33. Behind her great sacrifice was her heart of worship. It is very probable that she had been abused by the scribes (see the former context in Mark 12:38-40). As she approached the offering box, she gave both copper coins rather than holding back one. She gave all that she had to live on. Just as the Macedonians had given out of poverty in the relief offering that Paul was taking up, so did this poor widow give out of her poverty (1 Cor. 8:1-9).
What lessons can we learn from this story?
- God does observe the offering each week. We must be faithful in our giving for the glory of God.
- God observes the heart of the giver. Ask yourself – “Why do I give this much? Is it too much? Is it enough? Am I giving with the right heart?”
- God is the greatest giver. He has given us mercy when we deserved wrath, justification when we deserved condemnation, love when we deserved to be hated, and salvation when we deserved to be judged eternally. All of this God gave us through His Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Therefore, when we give, we must give financially with a heart that’s connected to the blood stained cross of Calvary and the great work of Jesus on our behalf.
- Give with a desire to invest in local missions through your church campus.
- Give with a desire to impact the nations through global missions.
- Always remember that no gift is too small. Consider the widow who gave two thin copper coins. She is a good example to consider when you think that your offering is insignificant. Every penny matters.
To the person who claims the name of Christ and is a member in a local church but doesn’t give financially to the Lord – you need to examine yourself and see if you’re in the faith. Robert Murray McCheyne once said, “There are many hearing me who now know well that they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart.” 
- William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark, vol. 10, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 506.
- Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, (Eternal Perspective Ministries, 2002), 63.
- Robert Murray McCheyne, Additional Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Late Minister of St. Peter’s Church, Dundee: Consisting of Various Sermons and Lectures Delivered by Him in the Course of His Ministry, (Edinburgh: John Johnstone, 1847), 394.