The Thanksgiving Of A Poor Widow
November 22, 1998 / No. 2916
Are you a thankful person? In whatever state you are; at all times; for all things?
Or is yours a false thanksgiving, sometimes, some situations, and for some things?
Are you able, by the grace of God, to say without exception: “Thanks, Lord for Thy saving grace to me. And I commit my way entirely unto Thee in praise all my days”?
This week Thursday our country will again celebrate its annual Thanksgiving holiday. Do you say, “Well, I suppose its true that there is so much to be thankful for.” But really you are not content, you are dissatisfied?
Or on that day, and always, are you humbly thankful for the rich grace of God in Jesus Christ to you? Are you secretly annoyed with God? Do you think that you need more? You are not content with His will? You are worried over the future? Or do you at all times, with a fervent heart, commit your way to your faithful Father, being patient when He sends adversity, being thankful when He grants prosperity. And are you confident that in all things you are in His hand? Do you know in this day of materialism, greed, pleasure-madness, gross disobedience, and carnality, do you know true thanksgiving?
The Scriptures bring to us a person who, by the grace of God, truly did know thanksgiving. It was a widow. Jesus spoke of her in Luke 21. We read: “And he (that is, Jesus) looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: for all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had” (vv. 1-4). It was in this widow’s act, and in the faith which stood behind it, that the Lord saw an expression of true thanksgiving. In utter humility this widow acknowledged that God was the owner of all. She committed her way to God without exception. And she lived in the knowledge that she was rich in the grace of God.
Do you possess such thanksgiving?
This event happened on Tuesday of the Passion Week, the last week of our Lord’s public ministry. The Lord was in Jerusalem at the temple, where He had been engaged in a series of confrontations with the unbelieving scribes and Sadducees. He had just finished His sermon on the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees recorded in Matthew 23. Jesus had pronounced a sevenfold woe upon them for their hypocrisy and sham religion. He had unleashed scathing rebukes for their awful religious pride, their devouring of widows’ houses, their outward show of long prayers; He had called them white-washed graves, stinking corpses (beautiful on the outside but filled with dead men’s bones within). Jesus is about to begin His discourse on the signs of the end recorded in Matthew 24 and in Luke 21.
It was then, in the middle of a day filled with controversy and at a time when He was between sermons, that there was a pause, a moment of rest. And He looked up, we read, and saw rich men casting gifts into the treasury. From the language, we gather that the Lord must have sat down on a bench in the temple courtyard directly over against the treasury. This was a place where He could observe men bringing their gifts to the temple. Here the Son of God, our Lord, just days from the cross, hotly assailed by His enemies, knowing that the hour is come, with thoughts of all of His sufferings which would be His, looks up and sees the action of a poor widow and commends her actions to us.
He looked up and saw rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. We are told from history that there were thirteen trumpet-shaped receptacles or collection-baskets in the courtyard of the temple. Each one had a different Hebrew letter designating separate offerings and causes. You will recall from Matthew 6 that the Lord had warned of the Pharisees who loved to do their alms (their gift-giving) before men and to make a big show of putting their gifts into the basket. And He called His disciples to give their gifts with godly discretion. These rich men cast in much. Mark tells us that it was a vast amount that they were giving. But in the line of those giving their gifts, there stood a poor widow, most likely overlooked, given at most a bemused smile by the other offerers for the very small amount that she cast in.
“And he saw also a certain widow casting in thither two mites.” A poor widow. The word poor here means beggarly, penniless, destitute. This widow was probably dressed in rags, hand-me-downs, a dress long gone out of fashion, the only one she had, an old shawl over her shoulders, thread-bare shoes, and an old body suffering from the effects, perhaps, of malnutrition and old age. She makes her way to the basket and casts in two mites. And she melts into the crowd. A mite is one-eighth of a quadrans, so that two mites amounted to one-fourth of a quadrans. What was a quadrans? Was it a dollar? No, it was a penny. Her offering totaled one-fourth of one cent. In fact, the word mite is related to our word leaf or dried-leaf, something small and light, so light that a gust of wind could blow it away.
“And he said,” that is, He called His disciples and said to them, “this poor widow hath cast in more than they all.” The Lord called His disciples to Him. It was one of those not-infrequent moments when the Lord would call His disciples to Himself to impart some profound and needed spiritual lesson. The Lord would drive home to His disciples a principle of the kingdom of God-something that He had just seen transpire which revealed the grace of God. And He said to them, “Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: for all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.” The widow gave out of her livelihood; she gave the small amount that she needed to live on. It was all the living she had. The rich gave of their abundance. The word abundance means surplus, what was left over, what went beyond their needs. They had first met their own financial needs. Their financial portfolio was stable. Their wants and wishes had been met. They did not give out of their retirement fund. They did not give out of their savings. They did not give out of their investments for old age. They gave out of their abundance. They gave out of what they would have finally to say in honesty that they did not really need at that moment or, conceivably, even in the future.
This widow gave out of her living. She needed those two mites for her daily living, for her groceries, for her earthly needs. That is the Word of God here. And, beloved, the Spirit of God points out that she cast in two mites. God, in His providence, might have given her one, but He gave her two. That is, her money could have been divided into separate funds. She could have thought, “Well, one for the church and one for myself, a mite for both.” No! She cast in both. She could have divided, but she gave all that she had. And that believing act expressed, as far as our Lord was concerned, the very heart of true thanksgiving. In that act she was making a confession. It was the humble acknowledgment that all that she had was not hers but God’s. With all that she had, regardless of the amount, she was to seek the kingdom of God, trusting the Lord to give her what she needed.
Her act was motivated by the knowledge, by the spiritual thrill of heart, that she belonged to God. She had received freely, undeservedly, unsought the treasures of Jehovah’s love, grace, and mercy. And her gratitude to God revealed itself in contentment, a total confidence that the Lord was able to supply her daily need. She lived in total dependence upon God.
That is what the Lord’s eye saw in her actions. It was an offering that day in the temple. There was something that Jehovah had required, a rich, abundant, magnificent offering. It was not the offering of those who gave out of their abundance. It was the offering of thanksgiving, from a humble heart which committed itself without conditions to God’s care. It was performed by a widow woman, someone unnoticed by the crowd and easily dismissed, little thought of by man. But it was noticed by God, and it received His approval.
She said, “Thanks, Lord. I am in Thy hands. What more could I want?” She knew herself rich in the grace of God and offered all things to her God in thanksgiving.
Do you possess such thanksgiving to God? Only out of a heart which stands in humility before God for all the riches of salvation, and thus a heart which is committed to the Lord, only out of such a heart can thanksgiving arise. Only out of a heart humbled, awed, subdued by saving grace, and thus a heart which at all times and for all things thanks God, a heart which receives both good and evil from God’s hand and lives in peaceful contentment-only out of such a heart can thanksgiving proceed.
What offering does God require? “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:15).
Are you, by the grace of God, as this widow? Do you live day by day out of humble trust and thanks to Jehovah for all of His goodness to you? The heart which is filled with greed and pride and faithless anxiety, that heart cannot give thanks to God. A heart which is filled with love for material things and love for itself and fear of losing those things, that heart cannot give thanks to God. If such things reign in our heart, the Lord looks into that heart. And if we yield ourselves to such things, then all of our words of thanksgiving amount to nothing. Then our thanks is this: “Thanks, Lord, that it goes pretty well my way. Thanks, Lord, that Thy will is pretty close to mine. But should that change, I don’t know what I’ll do.” No, it is only out of a humble contentment and a total gratitude for God’s grace, only out of such a heart can thankfulness be expressed.
Are you thankful?
With every penny do you seek the will of God? Do you live in contentment on God’s grace? Is your life regulated and controlled and directed by one consideration: My God has made me rich in His grace and therefore I praise Him in all things. Do you arise each day and face each day saying, “How shall I give worthy thanks unto Thee for the wonders of Thy love?” That is what explains this widow. Satisfied today, receiving all that we have as His, using all that we have in His service, and confident that He will supply to us what we need-that, and nothing less, is thanksgiving.
Then we will thank Him always. We will thank Him for all things. And we will live in the confidence that He will abide faithful. We will thank Him for the riches of His grace in the church. In a day of apostasy and departure on every side, when there is a famine of the Word of God, we will thank Him that He has preserved His Word among us.
Does God hear our voices ascending in thanksgiving for His church? Is our church fellowship a rich testimony of our thankfulness that the Word of God is yet among us?
We will thank Him for our homes. We will thank Him for God-fearing wives and husbands as the greatest gift of God to us. We will thank Him for faithfulness in marriage in a dark day of evil. We will thank Him for children. We will thank Him for all that He has given to us: job, occupation, yea, all things.
And how shall we live with material things? We shall use them all in the service of His kingdom.
Does God receive only out of our abundance? Or do we give to His kingdom and for the causes of His people when it hurts and when it means that other things that we want have to be cut back? From whence does our offering for the causes of His kingdom come? Do they come from that pile which is left after you have provided for your things? Or does it come first, the very first item of your budget, trusting that God will supply your needs? Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have been purchased by the blood of the Lamb of God. Are you thankful? Do you and I walk day by day in confident knowledge of His faithful love and commit our cares to Him? Does greed live in our hearts? Discontentment, envy, jealousy, worry? Or do we today and every day rise up and say, “Lord, I thank Thee. I am nothing. I deserve nothing. I can earn nothing. All is of Thee. None is of self. Blessed by Thy name. Now with all of it I would life vwisely. I would live as a citizen of the kingdom. I would offer it all in service of Thy name.”
Jesus sits over against the treasury today. He sits at that point where you and I are called to express our thanksgiving. That is when we pray, when we offer, when we worship. What does He see in our hearts? Grumbling, worry, discontentment?
No people have been so blessed as we. The riches of the gospel, the truths of holy Scripture, the forgiveness of sins-all of these heavenly treasures freely bestowed.
Do we thank Him?
Perhaps you say, “If only you knew my way in life, my pain of heart. Sometimes it is so dark that I say my way is hid from the Lord and my judgment is passed from my God. How can I thank Him under this burden, this choking oppression in my soul?”
If your way as a child of God in this life is dark and lonely, if it is a way of a widow, if gone from you is the loving fellowship of your dearest companion, if you find no one to care for your soul, and if you have been reduced to two mites, yet you may say, “The eternal God is my refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
And we may give thanks.
Even a widow, a poor widow. No one surpassed her in giving thanks.
Of a truth, says Jesus, I say unto you that this poor widow has cast in more than they all. She received the Lord’s commendation. Her heart was full and rich. Her thanksgiving was overflowing. Her contentment absolute. Her confidence in God’s faithfulness unshakable. Her faith and her humble thankfulness of heart was of more value in Christ’s sight than all the giving out of one’s abundance.
She is not to be pitied. She is to be envied.
How does Christ view our thanksgiving? Does He commend us? Does He see genuine, spiritual trust, peace in our hearts and minds? Does He observe our hearts and see that they fight against greed and pride and discontentment? From our hearts each day are we saying: “How shall my soul, redeemed by grace, give worthy thanks, O Lord, to Thee?” Do we offer the thanksgiving of a certain poor widow? Would this poor widow have a place at our table? Is something of her gratitude flowing in our hearts today? Do you know the grace of God to you, one so undeserving, a grace so rich and free? And out of that knowledge, do you live always and in all things in perfect contentment and in unshakable peace?
That is the thanksgiving of a certain poor widow. I envy her with a holy envy. God make such thanksgiving ours.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. And we offer our thanks not only this week, but always. May, O Lord, that thanks proceed out of hearts sincere. May we thank Thee always for all things, for Thy grace in Jesus Christ. Amen.