The story of the widow’s mite offers a profound contrast between two types of temple worshipers. But we often misinterpret the reason for Christ’s comparison. He is not preaching a lesson in personal piety and sacrificial giving—although pastors like to use this story during stewardship campaigns. It is critical that we hear instead an indictment of the preference we show to the rich and successful. In Jesus’ time as today, worshipers were assigned worth according to what they could do for the temple. Prominent “teachers of the law” were seen as assets, while poor widows were a definite burden.
Although we as church leaders are proud to count prominent teachers of the law as church members, Jesus tells us that it is the poor widow who is fulfilling her calling and is showing the right relationship to God.