The lesson of the Widow’s Mite comes from the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, and was part of the Gospel Readings for this last Sunday.  So, for my readers I am posting more information on the ‘Widow’s Mite’ from Wikipedia.  Enjoy!


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A bronze Mite, also known as a Lepton (meaning small), minted by Alexander Jannaeus, King of Judaea, 103 – 76 B.C. obverse: anchor upside-down in circle, reverse: star of eight rays.

The Lesson (or Parable) of the widow’s mite is a story present in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 12:38-44, Luke 20:45-47,21:1-4), in which Jesus is teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem, and condemns the Pharisees for their show of wealth, ostentation, and self importance. Witnessing the donations made by the rich men, Jesus highlights how a poor widow donates only two mites, the least valuable coins available at the time, but that this everything she had to her name, while the other people give only a small portion of their own wealth. The Gospel of Mark specifies that a mite was worth less than a quadrans, the smallest Roman coin, implying that Mark’s intended audience were more familiar with Roman culture than with Jewish.

This tale is held by most modern Christians to mean that a gift should to be judged not by its absolute value, but by how it compares relatively; that it is not the impressiveness or purchasing power which matters, but what it means. Some modern Christians, particularly those advocating theocratic styles of government, also see the passage as an admonition to give oneself entirely to God.

In earlier times, many Christians, especially the Gnostics, Ebionites, Waldensians, and Franciscans, argued that the passage is an encouragement to live in poverty, and not seek riches. Understandably, many modern Protestants, who for religious reasons advocate Capitalism, do not follow this interpretation. In the introduction to the passage, Jesus is portrayed as condemning the Pharisees who feign piety in order to gain the trust of widows, and thereby gain access to their assets; although most interpretations of this read it as criticism of the actions of certain individuals, racist groups have historically argued that the passages in question justify anti-semitism, particularly as the Gospel of Mark argues that severe punishment awaits those who follow such actions (Brown et al.).

A more systemic interpretation is that Jesus is condemning a religious system (and all systems, religious and political) that drains people of life rather than being life giving. In Mark’s version, verses 12:38-40 intitiate this criticism. In verse 41, Jesus then sits down in judgement "opposite" (over against, in opposition to) the treasury. People are impressed with the large sums that are put in; but they are not distressed that the temple has taken all the "poor widow" had to live on. The system stands condemned and the sentence is spelled out in verses 13:1-2.


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