“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has offered more..." (Mark 12:43-44)

Then he called over his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has offered more than all of those who made offerings to the coffers. Because they may have offered a lot – but she offered all that she had, and all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43-44)
Here is the situation:
Then Jesus sat down in front of the temple offering coffers and saw how the crowd offered coins into the temple coffers. Some rich people offered large amounts. A poor widow approached and placed two small coins in – a very small amount of money. (Mark 12:41-42)


Is this like the collection plate?

The "temple offering coffers" being described here would be comparable to the collection plates that are passed around many of today's institutions. Whether money is put into a box or a plate, it is still an offering.

And just as Jesus and his students could observe who put how much into the box, the collection plate provides a means to impress those around them with big donations.

Jesus is comparing the offerings put in by others with greater means than the woman. They may have put in considerable amounts, but hers was more according to Jesus.

The quantity of money wasn't Jesus' point. The other donors may have given a greater quantity. But widow gave a greater proportion of what she had. This was Jesus' point.

Jesus was commenting on the devotion of the widow. It is one thing to donate when we have plenty of money. But it is another to give when there isn't much to live on.

Both the collection plate and the collection box provide a similar process. It is an opportunity for a person to donate money to be used for the upkeep of the place of worship. This allows the worshiper to make a sacrifice in order to express our love and devotion to the Supreme Being.

Can this be abused?

The problem comes when this opportunity is misused or abused by those in charge of the place of worship. This is precisely what Jesus was referring to in his earlier statement:
Beware of the scribes – who like walking around in long robes receiving respect in the marketplaces. And have the important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at the feasts – yet they forcibly appropriate widows’ households and for appearances’ sake offer lengthy prayers. They will receive the greatest consequences.” (Mark 12:38-40)
Jesus is speaking of the custom back then of Jewish temples confiscating the houses of widows after their husbands would die. This would effectively leave them homeless and often destitute.

The temple priests employed this as a tool for making more money. They weren't satisfied by the offerings at the temple. They wanted more.

We can also understand their thirst for money motivated the temple priests to place the offering box outside where people would observe how big others' donations were. This creates a peer pressure that can only result in more money being donated.

Yes, the more public the collection plate or collection box is, the more money will be made. Making the collection process more public is a way to shame people into giving more money.

In other words, the process of collecting money in public provides a means for two types of abuse: First, the manipulation among the followers to impress others by offering more in public. And second, the manipulation by the institution to take advantage of this peer pressure to give more money - to the economic benefit of the leaders of the institution.

As a result, institution leaders become more focused upon the economic benefits rendered by their organization. This means that organization's leaders profit more from their institution, creating more demand to bring in more money.

This, in turn, perpetuates the current state of affairs among many institutions: They have made their institutions opportunities for officials and preachers to become wealthy on the backs of poor followers who feel pressured to donate more than they can afford.

Is this about dedication?

Jesus is referring to dedication here. Making an offering to God relates to dedication. Dedication is a matter of the heart. It is a matter of devotion - devoting ourselves to God.

Jesus is clear that the amount of money offered is not the measure of devotion. Otherwise, Jesus would have praised those who put in more money. He would have said that the more money you give, the more devotion you have.

Rather, Jesus is speaking of the widow's devotion because she offered money that she needed to feed herself. She decided it was more important to give that money to the temple, because she was devoted to God.

This sort of dedication is beyond most of us. We have little access to this devotional position because our hearts are hard. We are focused on ourselves. We are focused on our body's survival. We are focused on what others think of us. We are focused on our careers, our family, our house, our car. These are the things that concern us the most. And these are the things our lives are focused on.

This woman's actions provided a teaching moment to Jesus because he was showing his students the meaning of dedication. Dedication means commitment and commitment means giving of oneself regardless of our limitations or barriers.

Dedication relates to caring about the Supreme Being and others more than we care about ourselves.

This is also the central doctrine of Jesus. Loving devotion to God was his central message and his purpose for descending to the earth. This is illustrated by Jesus' most important instruction:
“The most important of all the instructions is, ‘Hear O Israel – the LORD our God is our only Lord – and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ – this is the most important instruction." (Mark 12:29-30)