Luke 21:1-4 – The Widow’s Contribution (Nov. 5th)

Message Notes:  A Poor Widow’s Contribution Nov 5


Ask your group members if they know any widows. Did they remarry soon after their husband’s passing, or did they remain single throughout the rest of their lives? Ask them to describe how they have lived or continue to live on their own. Do they have much money, or do they struggle to make ends meet? In today’s passage, Jesus points out the sacrificial actions of one and how her small contribution was far greater than her wealthier counterparts.   


Synopsis:  Stewardship is judged on what you have left, not what you give.

Following naturally what Jesus had just said about the teachers of the Law and their attitude toward widows, He pointed to a poor widow who was putting into the collection all her meager resources (two lepta, each worth about 1/8 cent; cf. 12:59; Mark 12:42). The percentage of what she gave was larger than all the others. So Jesus’ point was that her gift, though small, was more because she gave out of her poverty … all she had to live on.


  • It is not the amount of the gift to God that counts, but the spirit in which it is given.
  • God expects us to give our best and our all to him.


READ Luke 21:1-4 and answer the questions below:

What did Jesus witness, according to v. 1? Contrast this with what Jesus saw, according to v. 2. 

What did Jesus tell his disciples about the widow?

What are the things they do?

How did Jesus distinguish between what the rich contributed and what the widow gave?

In the temple, teaching as usual during these final days, Jesus noticed the rich dropping their offerings into the temple coffers. The way they did it, one could hardly fail to notice them. They did this as they prayed (20:47) for show, to be seen by others. Jesus did not focus on the rich. He zeroed in on a poor widow. She had two lepta, each worth about one one-hundredth of a denarius, the coin used for a day laborer’s daily wage. Thus, her contribution to the temple was tiny in terms of monetary value.

But her two lepta had spiritual power. They form the subject for teaching Christian stewardship to this day. Why are they so important? Jesus valued these “worthless” coins as worth more than all the rich people had put in. Jesus’ reasoning is simple. The rich gave from their abundance, leaving much more for themselves. The widow gave from abject poverty, leaving nothing for herself. They gave out of discretionary funds. She gave her bread money. Giving is judged by the degree of sacrifice.


Use the information from the text and the commentary notes below to help discern responses to the following questions. 

  • Why do you think Jesus pointed out the actions of the widow?
  • Why do you think Jesus said the widow gave more than rich?  
  • What do you think Luke wanted his audience to know about biblical stewardship and sacrifice?

Jesus then took the offensive and asked a question of the people around Him. The question concerned the nature of the Messiah—How is it that they say the Christ is the Son of David? Jesus then quoted from Psalm 110:1, in which David called the Messiah my Lord and said that He was exalted by being at Yahweh’s right hand, the place of prominence. Two points are evident in these words of Jesus. First, the Son of David is also David’s Lord (Luke 20:44) by the power of the resurrection. (In Acts 2:34–35 Peter used the same verse from Ps. 110 to prove that Jesus’ superiority is based on His resurrection.) Second, David must have realized that the Son, who was to be the Messiah, would be divine, for David called Him Lord.

Cultural/Historical Background

Widowhood presents a difficult time in a woman’s life, especially when compounded with a diminished ability to meet financial needs, a common circumstance in the ancient patriarchal world of the Bible. Widows in the Bible, therefore, become a special teaching opportunity for the Biblical authors to present theological insights. In general, the widow’s inheritance rights were minimal. Some scholars believe that Israelite widows could inherit land as was the case with their Mesopotamian counterparts. But the evidence is sparse. The general rule was that the land was inalienably connected to the family of the male to whom it was apportioned.


What can we learn from the story of the widow? What does it teach us about sacrifice?

Forget for a moment that this passage is talking about money. How can we make sacrifices to honor God that do not pertain to money?

What does this story teach us about trusting in God to provide? How can you begin to make this a greater priority in your life? How can the group pray for you as you focus on living your life in this way?      


21:1 The rich. Luke changed the Markan “crowd” (Mark 12:41) to “rich.” In so doing he stressed one of the emphases in his Gospel. Into the temple treasury. This probably refers not to the treasure chambers of the temple itself but to the thirteen collection boxes in the temple.

21:2 Two very small copper coins. These coins (lepta) were the smallest coins in use.

21:3 This poor widow has put in more than all the others. This does not mean more than any of the others. God’s way of reckoning is overwhelmingly gracious. Compare Luke 19:17 and 19 and how generous the reward is for faithful service. Ten and five cities are given for faithfulness in the stewardship of ten and five minas. “More” must be understood as more in God’s eyes, for by human standards the widow put in considerably less (cf. Jas 2:5). It is most difficult to see in Jesus’ words anything other than a commendation. This saying envisions the blessedness of the poor spoken of in Luke 6:20.

21:4 All these people gave … but she. This is the reason for the statement in 21:3.

Posted in Group Notes, Luke 14, Luke: A Jesus for Everyone