While Matthew devoted a whole chapter to Jesus’ condemnation of the wealthy, religious elite (Matthew 23), Mark summarized Jesus’ words in three short verses. “Beware of the scribes, who want to go around in long robes and who want greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and say long prayers just for show. These will receive harsher judgment” (Mark 12:38–40).
Jesus called them “blind fools” (Matthew 23:17) and said, “woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27–28).
In comparison, Mark directed the reader’s attention to a poor widow. Jesus had just confronted the religious leaders, and immediately He praised the faithfulness of the worshipping woman. “Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. Summoning his disciples, he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had—all she had to live on’ ” (Mark 12:41-44).
The temple treasury, located in the Court of Women just outside the sanctuary, consisted of thirteen trumpet-shaped chests into which worshipers deposited their freewill offerings. Apparently the trumpet shape of the collection boxes amplified the sound of coins when they were dropped in, making it obvious when rich people deposited large sums.
Curiously, Jesus found a resting place opposite the coin boxes. There, He watched worshippers deposit their offerings. Is Jesus interested in what we put in the offering plate? He was then, and I think He is today.
With great pomp, some of the wealthy were emptying sack of coins, making as much noise as possible. I can almost imagine them, proudly standing tall, grunting loudly as they heft a bag of pennies, slowly pouring the coins, looking around to make sure others were watching.
Then, quietly, not wanting anyone to take notice, a poor widow, slipped over to the offering box. With eyes downcast, she emptied her coin purse of the two copper coins and silently slid them into the temple’s treasury.
Omniscient, Jesus knew that the rich man’s wallet was stuffed with big bills, and that the widow’s piggy bank was busted. “Truly I tell you … this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For all these people have put in gifts out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:3-4).