[The Widow's Offering]

Bible Reading Mark 12:38-13:2

Jesus Denounces the Scribes

As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’

The Widow’s Offering

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’

The Destruction of the Temple Foretold

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’


・A poor widow : she was, in truth, the only type of widow, because they were often counted among the poorest, most vulnerable, and voiceless in first-century Palestinian society- they have no security, no claim on property, no protection, and little resources.

・Small Copper Coins: the smallest in circulation at that time; A penny or a Roman quadrans was one sixty-fourth of a laborer’s daily wage.

・The oppression of economically vulnerable widows is castigated in Isa10:1-2 (Others in the Old Testament are Ps 94:1-7, Zech 7:10, Mal 3:5)

Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees,
who write oppressive statutes,
to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be your spoil,
and that you may make the orphans your prey!

(A few comments)

-quoting some passages from “The politics of Jesus” wrote by Obery Hendricks-

・Today’s passage from Mark is a bit more complicated than most people might initially think. A classic reading of this remark has rendered the widow a heroin, someone worth emulating, a selfless giver who gives until it hurts, and so on. However, this may not be what Jesus is really getting at in this passage. We cannot read the story about the widow’s offering without taking into consideration the few verses that immediately precede this text.

・Prior to witnessing the widow’s offering, Jesus had been teaching his disciples about some systems of social inequity, of imbalance in the religious, political, and social structures of his day. This is not simply to contrast the wealthy with the poor, those who have a “surplus of wealth” from which they offer their gifts at the Temple versus those who have only their subsistence from which to draw. No, Jesus is painting a much starker picture that is, in effect, more about the wealthy scribes than it is about the poor, destitute widow.

・These scribes about which Jesus warns the disciples to be wary use their social location, power, and wealth only for themselves. Surely, as Jesus points out, they “give to the church” (to use a modern phrase), but they do so only in the most superficial and painless way. Their real concern is themselves, maintaining their wealth, and shoring up their hegemony at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable of their time. Jesus clearly condemns this.

・If you think that this passage is about the widow or about how honorable the poor are for being generous, you are missing the point. We see a religious and political system that is run by a few wealthy and powerful individuals in those days. These are the entrepreneurs of the religious establishments, who “as a pretext” to fleecing the poor and the vulnerable “contribute out of their abundance and recite lengthy prayers” in show of their religious commitments and to paint the financial exchange “of God.”

・This is not an opportunity to praise the widow, but a chance to denounce the disgusting injustice that creates the condition for this scene. The widow’s offering is an illustration of what Jesus was just talking about- the religious, political, and social establishment has systematically corrupted her way of thinking such that she apparently feels compelled to give far beyond what likely hurts her and anyone, say children, who might depend on her.・

・A reading of Jesus’ comments that appears to hold the widow up on a pedestal is a perpetuation of this injustice that inflicted the widow of Jesus’ time and continues to affect the poor and vulnerable in our day. Hopefully we don’t miss the point of the widow’s offering, but instead follow Jesus’ line of thinking which makes a difference in our world. We should remember that the Lord said to His own people. Namely, “Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of oppressor anyone who has been robbed.” (Jeremiah 22:3)

・The religious leaders did not repent their behavior. Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the Roman Army in 70.















*イエス様は律法学者をこのように批判しています。「・・彼らは、長い衣をまとって歩き回ることや、広場で(尊敬を持って)挨拶されること、会堂では上席、宴会では上座に座ることを望み、また、やもめの家を食い物にし、見せかけの長い祈りをする。」この中で注目すべき点は、律法学者たちがやもめの家を食い物にしていることです。彼らは、神様と隣人を愛することの大切さを知りながら、やもめやその家族から必要な生活手段を奪っているのです。律法学者たちは律法に精通し、資産の運用に関する知識にも長けているのです。やもめの相談に応じる振りをして金銭や財産(例えば土地)をだまし取っているのです。彼らは経済状態に関わらず十分の一の献金を要求したのです。そうしなければ「救いに与れない」とやもめを信仰の名によって脅したのです。やもめが生活を無視して献金した理由はここにあるのです。イエス様は律法学者たちに「十分の一は献げるが、律法の中で最も重要な正義、慈悲、誠実はないがしろにしているからだ。これこそ行うべきことである。・・」 、「杯や皿の外側はきれいにするが、内側は強欲と放縦で満ちているからだ。・・」と言って、彼らを激しく非難されたのです(マタイ23:23-25)。