The Widow’s Mite
Overview of all workshops in this Rotation:
- Story Background
- ART: Use an embossing technique to create artistic coins.
- COOKING: Make sugar cookie “coins” to share with others.
- GAMES 1: Younger students will use a life-size board game to explore ways in which the church uses our gifts to do God’s work
- GAMES 2: Older students will play “Wheel of Fortune” to explore ways in which the church uses our gifts to do God’s work.
- PUPPETS: Enact puppet skits that explore the idea of “giving up”.
Note: These workshops were written for 1st through 6th graders though not all grades visit all workshops. We ran this one as a 3-week Rotation using “creative scheduling”. We had 6 workshops every week, running two concurrent art workshops. (Thus the reason only 5 workshops are shown above.)
Mark 12: 38-44
“Always give yourselves completely to the work of the Lord. Because you belong to the Lord, you know that your work is not worthless.”
1 Corinthians 15:58 New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
at the end of the Rotation, kids should be able to:
- Locate the story in their Bible, identifying the four Gospels (older students); Younger students will learn that the story is in the New Testament.
- Be able to retell the story of a poor widow who gave everything she had.
- Learn that the value of a gift isn’t determined by it’s amount, but by the attitude in which the gift is given.
- Learn that the church relies on us to do God’s work.
- Understand that a gift can be money, time or talents.
Modern Bible translations call our story, “The Widow’s Offering.” A more eloquent, descriptive title is found in older Bible versions: “The Widow’s Mite. A mite conjures up images of something very small and insignificant. Indeed, our story itself is not very long – only a few verses in Mark, also repeated in Luke (20:45-47, 21:1-4). As always, there is much to learn: what does Jesus have to say about our offerings to God? Is the amount important? Must we give all? Or is our attitude of giving more notable? A short story about a seemingly small sum helps us with these questions.
Story setting: in the Temple
The Passover approaches, bringing many people to Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday. Jesus has made his triumphal, palm-waving entrance into Jerusalem. It is the countdown to his crucifixion. In this setting we find Jesus teaching in the Temple. Scholars label this portion of Mark’s Gospel as the “Temple teachings of Jesus.”
The Temple was the place where Jewish people came to worship and offer sacrifices. There were three courts in the inner area of the Temple. In one of these courts, called the Court of the Women, were thirteen “chests” placed against the wall for the collection of offerings. These chests were very different in appearance than our current day collection plates. Imagine a container narrow at the top and wide at the bottom, shaped like a trumpet. Each was inscribed with where the funds would be spent: one trumpet collected contributions for wood used in the Temple, and another incense. Sounds like designated-giving!
Story characters in conflict
Jesus is in the Temple, teaching those around him. He also finds himself in escalating opposition with temple authorities. Listen as Jesus criticizes their religious practices:
Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely. (Mark 12: 38-40)
At first these verses don’t seem to fit with the narrative that immediately follows this passage – about a widow giving two small coins. The mention of widows does occur in both sections, somewhat tenuously connecting the two. (“Devouring” their houses possibly refers to unfair treatment of widows in expecting hospitality from those least able to provide it.)
What these extra verses do provide for our understanding of the Widow’s Mite story is context and contrast. We gain a better understanding of Jesus’ reaction to the widow’s small gift when we’ve been introduced to a contrasting attitude of “giving”.
Making a show of giving (and noise!)
In verse 41 we find Jesus quietly watching the crowds. He sees people put their money into the Temple treasury, the trumpet-shaped chests. He sees “the church leaders prance forward and donate large sums of cash” (Bell). Recalling that in those days money was exclusively coinage, think of the noise when one deposited an offering! A large contribution – lots of coins – meant quite a clatter as the coins dropped into the chest. One can imagine the prosperous Temple leaders enjoying yet another chance to make a show of their wealth. What does this say about their attitude of giving? Yet Jesus does not comment about these gifts of the rich. He sits and watches. It seems that he is waiting for a teachable moment.
Enter the widow
“But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.” (Mark 12:42) In a King James Version of the Bible we would read the same verse as:
“And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.” (KJV) Now this was exciting to Jesus! He calls to his disciples. “Hey, guys, come over here. You won’t believe it! This poor woman put in a few cents, but she put in more than all the rest because they gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford – she gave her all” (Norris, paraphrasing verses 43 & 44).
With a giving attitude
We don’t know why the woman gave everything she had. Some would say this passage teaches us that giving should be a sacrifice. Our interpretation takes a different route. We can relax; Jesus is not telling us to give until it hurts! This story is about more than money. What concerns Jesus is our motivation for contributing. With what attitude do we approach our giving?
The widow didn’t give because she was forced to do so. She hadn’t studied Temple budgets and calculated her share. She certainly didn’t give as a means for recognition. (She didn’t even get a supportive word from Jesus. Jesus talks about what she did, but never actually speaks directly to her.) Yet Jesus points to this woman as an example of having the correct attitude in giving. She gives out of faith. In giving all she had, she trusts her next meal, and her life, to God.
Such faith comes as a response to God’s love. “We have already been given the greatest gift that we will ever receive. There is no need for us to give back this gift. Jesus Christ gave his life for us, so that we may have the life of eternity. Jesus Christ gave his life for us, so that we may experience an abundant love beyond compare (Bell).
What we would hope for in teaching children about giving? Gifts should not be given out of guilt or for recognition or prominence. Giving offerings is a response to the abundant love God has already given us. Encountering Jesus changes us. Are we prepared to respond? I am not sure that I am, but with God's help, all things are possible.
FYI: Coins of Jesus’ day
The two small copper coins or “mites” mentioned in our story were the smallest coins in circulation at that time. The Greek name for this coin would be lepton and the Hebrew name, prutah. On one side of the coin is an image of a wheel with eight spokes. Inscribed between the spokes in Hebrew is, “Yehonatan the King”. On the other side is an anchor and “of King Alexander”.
At Jesus’ time two mites would probably be enough to buy one pomegranate. These two small coins represented one sixty-fourth of a daily wage (Mays).
- Bell, David S. “A Sermon Starter: The Might of the Mite.” The General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church. 2003. Used with permission.
- Clark, Guy. “Ancient Coins and Antiquities: Judean/Biblical Coinage.” accessed Oct. 2004.
- Life Application Study Bible notes. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996.
- Mays, James L. ed. Harper’s Bible Commentary. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.
- Norris, Douglas I. “When is Enough Enough?” Tell Them About Jesus: The Sermons of Douglas I. Norris. 1998. http://members.tripod.com/mzla...Sermon98/11-8-98.htm
- “The Widow’s Mite.” Faith Quest Lesson Set from Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church. 2001.
Except as noted, Scripture quoted is taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Some Scripture quoted is taken from the New International Reader's Version. Copyright © 1998 by International Bible Society. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quoted from the King James Version: The KJV Bible is in the public domain in the United States.
Summary of Lesson Activities:
Use thin sheets of copper and an embossing technique (repouss) to create artistic coins to remember the widow’s gift.
Mark 12: 38-44
- Read the scripture for this lesson.
- Read and reflect on the overview material provided for this lesson.
- Prepare an opening and/or closing prayer in case you need one.
- Gather the materials.
- Art Emboss brand embossing metal: copper, cut into appropriated sized circles; one for each younger student, two for each older student
- Base for coins: Round wooden disks - one per student (Purchased at a craft store)
- Double-sided tape
- Stylus tools (ball point pens, wooden sticks or plastic clay tools) – one per student
- Scraps of felt (slightly larger than copper circles)
- Scrap paper; pencils; scraps of copper (for practice)
- Books with pictures of Bible times coins
- Bibles (for older students)
- For younger students: The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories
Before Start of Class:
Cut circles of copper: For younger students lightly trace around wooden circles. Cut out one per student. For older students cut circles slightly larger than the wooden circles. Cut two per student.
Opening - Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Greet your students warmly, welcoming them to the Art Workshop. Introduce yourself and any other adults.
[Note: The Shepherd will be quietly taking care of attendance, etc. while you are starting your lesson.]
Pass around the basket used to collect any monetary offering.
Say: This month besides collecting any money you may bring, we are collecting canned and boxed food for the Canned Food Drive . Around Thanksgiving every year we collect food to give to people who are in need. There are people living in this town who go hungry because they don’t have enough money to buy food.
Say: Let’s start our time together with prayer.
Ask for any prayer requests. Ask if anyone would like to lead the group in prayer. Be prepared to say a prayer yourself, working in prayer requests. A suggestion: “Dear God, as we think about being creative today in our art project, we thank you for creating us. We thank you for the many skills and talents you have given us. Help us use our talents to help others. Amen”
Dig - Main Content and Reflection:
For 1st and 2nd graders:
Ask: If we want to read a story about Jesus, where would we find it – in the Old Testament or the New Testament of the Bible?
Say: Our story today is from the New Testament section of the Bible, where we find stories about Jesus. We find our story in the Gospel of Mark.
Hold open a Bible. Have the copy of the story from pages 332 and 333 in The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories inside the Bible. [This reinforces that the story is from the Bible.]
Read the story.
For 3rd grade and up:
Distribute Bibles. (Encourage bringing own Bibles.)
- The Bible is divided into two sections, what are they called? (old & new testament)
- Would a story about Jesus be in the Old or New Testament? (new)
- What are the first four books of the New Testament?
- What do we call those first four books? (the Gospels)
- What does the word Gospel mean? (good news)
Have everyone find the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12, verse 38.
Remind them of the quick way to find the New Testament: dividing the Bible in half gets them near Psalms in the OT. Dividing the back half in half again gets them near the beginning of the New Testament.
At the beginning of a Rotation, have kids take turns reading verses 38-44. In the latter part of the month, start off by asking the kids if they can tell you the story. Have them fill in any details by looking up passages in their Bibles. [Please have everyone find the story even if they don’t need to refer to it – it’s good practice in Bible usage.]
Say: At the beginning of the story Jesus says, “watch out for the teachers of the law”. Ask: Whom is he talking about? (religious leaders, Pharisees)
Do you recall a recent Bible story we learned where Jesus did something that made
the religious leaders mad? (last Rotation, when Jesus forgave the lame man’s sins)
Say: Jesus is talking about the religious leaders and how they make their religion into a big show. They are more concerned about themselves than about poor widows. They give money just because they want to get something in return – the best seats in the synagogue or to be recognized as important. Jesus says this is the wrong reason to give.
For all students:
Ask: People in the temple were giving gifts of coins just like people today give money to the church. Why do we give money to church? (allow all answers)
Say: When we give money to our church we are giving money to do God’s work.
- Does everyone have to give the same amount to the church? (no)
- What did Jesus say about the widow’s gift? (verse 43, her gift was larger)
- How can her gift be larger than what the richer people gave? (allow all answers)
- The widow gave everything. Where did she expect her next meal to come from?
Say: The women gave all she had trusting that God would take care of her. Jesus was saying that the amount of the gift wasn’t really important but the attitude in which the gift is given is important. Jesus wants us to give out of love and faith. Our giving should be a response to God’s love. To remember the woman who gave her last coins, let’s each make our own coin.
Introduce and explain the art project:
Say: We will be using a process called repoussÉ to make a coin. We will use tools to create an embossed design on a thin piece of copper. Spend a few minutes thinking about your coin. Decide what you want your coin to look like. You may use these pieces of scrap paper to plan your coin.
Pass out supplies – starting with scrap paper and pencils. 1st – 3rd graders will each receive one piece of copper. Older students will receive two pieces.
Remind them to keep their design simple.
Show the students how to use the tools by demonstrating on pieces of scrap copper.
Give each student a piece of felt. Place the copper on top of the felt.
If desired, they can trace their design from the scrap paper to the copper. (Might wish to tape the design to the coin.) Use a stylus tool or a ballpoint pen, to trace the design, pressing gently. (Not too hard or they will go right through the copper!)
Turn over the copper piece. Your raised design is visible! Rub this front surface of the coin with a flat part of the tool to stretch the metal, reinforcing the design elements. Turn the coin back to the other side to further impress your design.
Work both sides of the metal. Add texture to some areas, creating patterns of parallel lines, dots, circles, etc. Continue to work both sides to see what is possible
Note that if anyone wants to do letters they will come out backwards so plan ahead!
For 3rd – 6th grade:
When both pieces of metal are decorated, use the double-stick tape to adhere the metal to the round disks. Work the edges, pressing them over the sides of the disk. A stylus tool may be used to create a ribbed edge. Some trimming away of excess metal may be necessary. Watch for sharp edges – can create paper type cuts!
For 1st – 3rd grade:
Have them decide which side of the coin is the “right” side. Use the double-stick tape to adhere the wrong side to the wooden disk.
Discussion: (while the students are working)
- Share some of what you learned in the Overview material about “mites”. Explain why this story is called “the Widow’s Mite”.
- In the US, a coin cannot bear the image of a living person. Coins in Jesus’ time often had pictures of the current political leaders.
Show pictures of ancient coins.
- Do gifts to the church always have to be money? What other forms can gifts take? (Time, talent, etc.) What sort of gifts can kids give?
- The widow gave all of her coins, trusting that God would take care of her. Can you name a time when you trusted God and God took care of you? [Leader: be prepared to tell a faith story of your own.]
Say: As you show your family and friends the coin you made, tell them the story of the woman who gave all she had. Jesus loves you. Jesus wants you to love him back. One way we can do that is to be hands, feet and arms for Jesus. We have learned today that our gifts can do this in many ways.
- Batchelor, Mary. The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories. Batavia, IL: Lion Publishing, 1985.
- “The Widow’s Mite - Creation Station”. Faith Quest Lesson Sets at Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church. 2001. http://www.kirkofkildaire.org/...ns/WidowCreation.htm
- Art Emboss Embossing metal. Made by Amaco. Used lightweight copper. Purchased at JoAnn Fabrics. And on-line at Dick Blick Art Supply: http://www.dickblick.com/zz605...ram=0&ig_id=6479
Comes in 9.25 by 12 inch sheets. For younger students coins are one-sided ovals approximately 2.5 by 2.75 inches. One sheet of copper makes 12 coins. For older students coins are double-sided. Circles need to be 2.5 inches. One sheet makes 6 coins.
- Hints on tools from an elementary art teacher: use tongue depressors cut in half on the diagonal and sand the cut edge to smooth it. These provide a point, short, and long flat edges, and a curved edge for tooling lines and shapes.
Scripture quoted is taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
A Lesson Set written by Carol Hulbert from: First United Methodist Church
Ann Arbor, MI
Copyright 2004 First United Methodist Church, Ann Arbor, MI.
Permission to copy materials granted for non-commercial use provided credit is given and all cited references remain with this material.
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