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He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, 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.”
It is the thought that counts! We might hear that saying in a couple of instances. One is the more traditional meaning – as Oxford tells us: “Used to indicate that it is the kindness behind an act that matters, however imperfect or insignificant the act may be.” The other is slightly more sarcastic. It might also be used when someone receives a gift that isn’t quite wanted – a re-gift of an unwanted gift, something not quite attractive or necessarily wanted. Well, it was the thought that counts.
There was more than just Jesus and His disciples observing the day’s giving at the Temple treasury. We know from some of the other observations Jesus made that many of those who gave did so just to be noticed and praised: “So when you give to the poor, don’t announce it with trumpet fanfare. This is what hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets in order to be praised by people.” Jesus also told a man who had invited Him to dinner to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you.” Living in community obviously allowed many to see and make judgments.
So there is the widow putting in her two mites, all she had. Most were probably not thinking – ‘Well, it was the thought that counts.’ She was an embarrassment to them; that widow, that poor woman. The Old Testament is filled with legislation that attempted to provide for the widow. The legislation acknowledged the fact that they were vulnerable and victimized. People probably did not treat this widow as they should, and there she was. The fact she had next to nothing to give accused the observers.
Jesus was not thinking: ‘Well, it was the thought that counts’ either. The widow’s act of giving was neither imperfect nor insignificant nor was it something received and unwanted. Jesus knew that this widow knew the joy of love and the anguish of loss. Yet she continued to give her all. This act of giving represents what Jesus intended to do in giving of Himself totally. This is what he asks us, His disciples, to do. Jesus saw her giving as perfect, significant, and wanted. Jesus points to her so that we too – from love and loss will chose correctly and give our all.