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She is Called Women of the Bible Study Vol. 3

The Widow’s Offering: Heart of Abundance

By Rev. Tiffany Fan

When a poor widow gave two small copper coins to the Temple treasury, the widow’s offering became a real-life parable for Jesus’s disciples. The story of the widow’s offering—sometimes called the widow’s mite—is found in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4. The woman’s generosity in this story is more than a lesson on tithing; her willingness to give everything moves our hearts. Just like this woman’s generous act moved the people who watched her, we have an opportunity to allow her courageous giving to inspire us as well. 


Generous God, you spared nothing to bring us into relationship with you. You gave us everything in the person of Jesus. Inspire us through your Holy Spirit as we read about a widow who gave all she had to live on. Move our hearts and encourage us through her example. Amen.

Key Scripture

Mark 12:41-44

“[Jesus] 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” (Mark 12:41-42).

Introduction to the Generous Widow’s Offering

Whenever the Trader Joe’s cashier rings the bell, I feel a little uncomfortable about being pressured. When he asks if I would like to donate to charity, the real me (who needs to research the organization and know where the money actually goes) wants to say, “no,” but I imagine it’s the self-conscious Asian part of me who starts to take mental notes of how many pairs of eyes are watching that prompts me to say, “yes.”

Right before the story of the widow’s offering, Jesus was in the Temple teaching his disciples to beware of the scribes, people who were seeking out human approval and putting on a mask of piety and status. Their outward lifestyle provided a vivid contrast to what followed, an anonymous widow quietly offering her whole livelihood.

Jesus called his disciples over for an important teaching moment: this widow’s offering of two small coins was worth much more than all the hefty, loud coins. “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury” (Mark 12:43).

Many people make offerings, but this widow made a sacrifice to God. Beyond her duty, without possibility of people’s praises, without pressure of eyes watching, she laid down a sacrifice that cost everything she had.

Digging Deeper: The Meaning of the Widow’s Mite

The Temple treasury of Jesus’s time consisted of thirteen chests, or wooden boxes, with metal trumpet-shaped mouths on top. These were placed in the Women’s Court. Seven of the thirteen contribution boxes were for collecting specific offerings to support the needs of the Temple. The other five chests were mostly for volunteer offerings, which is likely where Jesus sat to watch people dropping their offerings through the bronze trumpet-shaped funnels.

While many rich people dropped large offerings that would loudly clink the metal trumpets, the poor widow’s two copper coins were probably too lightweight to be fully audible. Nevertheless, Jesus saw and heard her offering. The woman was under no obligation to offer it. This was a voluntary offering after all. 

I once heard a wife in a marriage counseling session say, “I don’t want any of us to sacrifice. I just want my husband and I to live happily together.” “As roommates?” I thought. However, even roommates will sacrifice a little to at least be courteous. According to Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, the word “sacrifice” means, “the fact of giving up something important or valuable to you in order to get or do something that seems more important.” Any deep and meaningful relationship will require sacrifices. Sacrifices are not coerced, forced, or obligatory, but are given willingly, gladly, and out of love. A willing sacrifice is a great act of love.  

This love is often seen in the relationship between parents and their young children. I have seen it in the beautiful smiles of a new mom and dad, who are sleep deprived, exhausted, and confused, but who will not hesitate to tell you this is “the greatest moment in their lives.”  

The widow’s sacrificial offering points us toward the life of sacrifice Jesus modeled for us. In the book of John, Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd and says, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father” (John 10:18). Jesus offered himself willingly. He spared nothing, and it cost him everything.

By shining a light on the unnamed widow’s generosity, Jesus reminds us that what is most important to God is not the quantity of the gift, but the generosity of the one doing the giving. This powerful woman of God gave an offering that resounded louder than the heaps of coins dropped into the treasury by others. In the same way, we are encouraged to give of ourselves in a way that makes an impact, even if others never see us give.

She Is Called and We Are Called

On a quiet Monday morning, our treasurer called and asked me to check with one of the sisters in our church to see if she wrote an extra zero on her offering check. “Should it be $80 instead of $800? We will hold the check until you double check with her,” the treasurer told me. The sister who made the offering is a widow with three children to support; therefore, the church was worried about her and willing to give back her offering check.

When I called to check with the woman, she told me it was not a mistake. She intended to offer $800. She explained that she heard we need to fix the church building and felt led to offer that amount. Still, I refused to hang up the phone. “But…are you sure?” I asked. She laughed and said, “Really, pastor, it’s fine. I am very happy to offer it! God is my provider.”  

When I hung up, I was left wondering. Out of poverty, my sister gave with a mindset of abundance, while others—myself included—give with a mindset of poverty. Why?  

This scarcity mindset is not limited to money or material possessions. A heart of poverty looks at what we hold in our hands right now and wonders how much we will have left after giving it away. If I give my time to attend the Bible study group, I will lose two hours of time to work on my project. If I close my business on Sunday, I will lose customers. If I give out my love, will I receive any in return? If I give out my help or energy, will I be appreciated in return? If I respond to God’s call, will I lose myself? 

In contrast, a heart of abundance looks at the One who provides what we have in our hands. As we recognize our God as the one who provides everything—possessions, time, energy, love, and all of who we are—we will grow in our trust of Almighty God’s abundance. 


The poor widow walked into the bustling Women’s Court. She quietly offered her whole life knowing it was not a religious requirement, knowing she would receive no praise in return, knowing her offering was insignificant in monetary value, and knowing her limited ability and her poverty. Yet she offered it all anyway. Would we? 

She gave a willing sacrifice because she trusted in God as the source of all she had. She did not look at what she had in her own hands; she looked to the One who gave her all that she had. The courage and generosity of the widow who gave everything inspires us to look at our priorities. When we look at the world, do we see scarcity and worry about not having enough, or do we see the One whose very presence transforms enough into abundance?

Discussion Questions

  • Who has demonstrated a heart of abundance to you? How has this inspired your own heart of abundance?
  • What is one way God might be calling you to give sacrificially?
  • What surprised you in this Bible study session?
  • What do you hear the Spirit saying to you/your family/your church/your community?

Rev. Tiffany Fan was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the U.S. when she was sixteen. She graduated from New Brunswick Theological Seminary with distinction in May 2021. She has worked as a part of a church planting team in the Bronx, New York, since 2017. Tiffany is called to multicultural ministry and to serve within the Chinese cultural context.

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This Bible study is from the third book in the Women of the Bible Study Series. Get the book to discover how Rahab, Lydia, Eve, Naomi, Achsah, Huldah, and more embraced God’s call for their lives.

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