41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’
Remember to keep this passage in context with the previous passage – Jesus is still in the temple, teaching. He has just warned of those who pretend to be righteous, who take the places of honor, and go about wrapped in their pomposity, yet take from poor widows.
In contrast, he watches one of those poor widows put the last small copper coins she has into the temple offering. Others, of course, had put in their large gifts, with much rattling of heavy coins (no paper money in those days) as they hit the bottom of the box. But Jesus said the widow contributed more than any of them – for they gave out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty. She gave all that she had. If we took that in terms of percentages, the prosperous were giving their 10%, as required in the Jewish law, while her gift was 100%, all she had to live on. Which would you think was the greater gift?
The poor widow had the gift of generosity; she had discovered joy in giving. She gave all that she had, not just from the left-overs after she had bought everything else she needed. If she had bought what she needed there would have been nothing left. But her heart was rich in love for God, and she gave all.