“He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2 he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4 for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4
I have to admit that this short parable found in Luke 21 and also in Mark 12:41-44 has often been troubling to me. Here is this poor widow who feels compelled to put into the treasury of the synagogue, she feels so strongly that she puts in her last two “copper coins, which were worth a penny.” This widow is literally down to her last penny and she puts it in the plate. Since she has nothing else she is literally using her last deed to give to the synagogue, with no money she would have no grain to make bread to live on. Severe adherence to the letter of the law has put this widow to the point of giving up and going home to die. Not uplifting at all.
There is an alternative interpretation that was pointed out to me by Dr. Sharon Ringe at Wesley Theological Seminary, and that is that the widow put in her two coins because she knew her needs would be met by the community of faith. I have spent many hours thinking about and studying this passage, and while this view is a very uplifting and hopeful interpretation I do not know if I can completely take it and run with it.
I think both interpretations are valuable and can teach us different things, but this parable makes me think that much more about why God would include such difficult things in His book. We can look at this parable as discouraging and scathing, or as hopeful and amazing in the unity of community. This is the amazing thing about looking at and interpreting the Bible, it is different to every person who looks at it, our life experience often shapes how we see a certain passage.
This parable is pretty difficult, but you know it should speak to us that if we pour ourselves into the bible, then we should be able to come away with something relevant to our current situation. While I will continue to struggle with the parable of the widow, there is one thing that is certain, I will continue to struggle with and try to gain new insight from the Bible every time I open it up.
This video from Matthew West is an amazing song that I think speaks to our opening up our eyes and our Bible to the things in the world around us: