Today’s gospel highlights the simple action of a poor widow. She places two small coins (the smallest denomination they had at that time) into the temple treasury. It was a kind of free will offering. Hundreds of people would put their donations into this container every day. The small donation of this poor widow would probably have gone unnoticed by the crowds of people entering the temple. But Jesus noticed.
Not only did Jesus notice, he also made it the opportunity to teach his disciples a lesson. He points out the unnoticed woman. He wants his disciples to notice her too. It is significant that she is a widow. She has no one to provide for her. She depends upon the kindness of others. Most of all, she has learned to depend upon God. But Jesus points out that “this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
We might say that she was “generous to a fault.” She gave all that she had to live on, her last cent. Common sense would say that she could have given one of her small coins and kept the other to buy her next simple meal. In her dire poverty, giving even one coin would be considered an act of generosity. Yet, in giving both coins, she is making a complete act of trust and confidence that the Lord will provide for her. In this regard, she is like the widow of Zarephath in today’s first reading who provides food for the prophet Elijah without knowing where her next meal would come from. God rewards here generosity: “She was able to eat for a year, and [Elijah] and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the LORD had foretold through Elijah.” (1 Kings 17:16)
Both widows display complete trust in the Lord’s providence. Both show extraordinary generosity. They believed in God’s Word and trusted that God will always take care of them. Jesus is contrasting their trust and their generosity to the limited trust and generosity of the rich people who gave from their surplus. They retained sufficient revenue to fall back on. In making a donation, they did not take a risk. They had no need to trust in the Lord. Instead they were still trusting in their own wealth.
In the final analysis this gospel parable is not really about money. It is about the ability to entrust oneself completely to the Lord. Do I rely on my own resources, my knowledge, my cleverness, my creativity and my capabilities? Can I let go of my self-made sources of security and place my total trust in the Lord? “The LORD is my strength and my shield, in whom alone my heart trusts.” (Psalm 28:7)