The passage (Mark 12:41–44) about the poor widow who put “everything she had” in the temple treasury was among the lectionary readings a few weeks ago, and it’s a frequent text for stewardship sermons. The example of the widow’s generosity seems clear enough, and it’s part of the church’s standard repertoire about sacrificial giving.
But Fergus Kerr suggests that the story is about not generosity but exploitation.
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.
The widow tossed the only shred of independence she had into the offering plate, but she kept intact her complete dependence on God and neighbor. She is our spiritual mentor standing there on the margins of all we hold dear. Her way is a life of faith grounded in the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the communion of the Holy Spirit. It’s a life lived in the conviction that we are stewards of all we have in our hands and our lives, not the owners of these things.