The Jerusalem temple contained thirteen separate receptacles for offerings and taxes. These receptacles were called “trumpets” because they were shaped like trumpets with their flared bells on top and terminating in a box fixed to the floor. These receptacles were positioned under the colonnade surrounding the women’s court. Each was labeled for its use. For example, two trumpets were for the temple tax, current and past year. One trumpet supported the purchase of firewood for the burnt offerings. Another trumpet was for the purchase of pigeons and other birds for necessary sacrifices. Other trumpets were for the collection of costs for other sacrifices. One was a free-will offering for various needs of the priests and the upkeep of the temple.
It does not take much imagination to wonder that a popular pastime in the women’s court of the temple was watching people deposit their various contributions in the thirteen trumpets. Remember, there was no paper money in that day- only coinage. So the coins would make a distinct sound as they were dropped into the brass trumpet and as they tinkled and rattled down into the box.
One day Jesus was observing the treasury, and he took note of the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. That they were rich was obvious by the size of their gift and the loud crash and rattle it made when thrown into the brass trumpet. But Jesus also observed a poor widow putting two little lepton coins into one of the receptacles. These were the smallest coins in circulation, worth about 1% of a day’s wages. Jesus marveled at the widow’s gift, which because of the minute coins must have barely made a sound when dropped into the trumpet. “Truly, I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
This is quite a lesson on stewardship. It’s not the size of the gift that matters to God, but the size of the heart, the size of the love, the size of the sacrifice behind the gift. The widow with her pitiful little offering gave more, in God’s eyes, than all the giant, rattling, booming offerings of the rich. You see, God doesn’t need money. He owns the universe. What he wants done, he will get done. Where people don’t care to participate, God will move among those who do. It is we who need to give, not God who needs to receive.
The faithful give discreetly. The widow’s offering could hardly be noticed. The rich made a spectacle out of their deposits. We no longer collect offerings in that way. Contributions are collected discreetly, and their amount and source are kept discreet by trustworthy stewards. But some like to make a show of their large gifts by affixing their name to a donated building or to some other physical property of great expense. In that way everyone knows his name and how much from his riches he contributed to the cause. Remember, God can take the widow’s pittance and build a castle from it if he so chooses.
This is also an encouragement to all of us, especially in this uncertain time of pandemic and economic downturn. Many of our friends and congregants have lost jobs or had wages cut. They feel badly they cannot contribute what they were accustomed to contributing. Remember the widow’s little leptons! Give what you can to the Lord; give from your poverty. Don’t worry about the size of your gift compared to others. God will take your pennies and build a mission or save a child or pay a missionary’s salary. Concern yourself with the size of the heart behind the gift, the size of the love for Jesus, the size of the sacrifice it represents. Jesus will admire such a gift and he will use it