The Economy and the Widow

Scripture: Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will learn God is most concerned about what is on our hearts and minds.
  • Students will learn God cares more about why we are giving and our attitudes toward giving than the actual amount given.
  • Students will learn God does not like it when people give to show off to others.
  • Students will learn how the economy worked during the time of the widow in the scriptures.

Guiding Question: How can students learn the impact the economy can have on a person?

Materials: Replica widow’s mite coins, roman currency replica coins, Market booth with bread, dates, figs, olive oil, donation box

Procedure: Teach the story of the Widow’s Mite from the scriptures above. Explain that God cares for widows and asks that we as Christian give special care to them as well. Tell students that God wants us to have a giving heart to show our love and God’s love for others. Showing off what we have is a form of bragging and God wants us to be humble and serve others around us.

Help students understand the impact of the widows gift by explaining a little about the economy at that time. If you can afford it, you can purchase replica widow’s mite coins online as well as other Roman currency replicas…or show photos. Set up a “market” booth with items like bread, dates, figs, olives, olive oil and other food items popular at that time ¼ of a sestertius was the cost of a loaf of bread and two sparrows. Price other items based on current prices for bread and the items you have in your market and then convert into Roman currency. Give students less than they need to buy the food they will need to eat for the rest of the day. Set up a donation box to the side after they become frustrated trying to buy food (let them pool their money if they are creative and decide they want to try it). After they have failed to buy enough food to keep them from getting hungry the rest of the day, discuss the implications of the widow placing her last two mites in the collection box at the Temple.

Some things to know: Normally Jews were expected to pay a ½ shekel Temple tax – which was used to pay the expenses for the Temple and the priests, donate 10% of anything they earned or grew and provide animals, grains and other items for sacrifices. In addition there was the collection box for free will offerings. It is unclear whether the widow had the money for all of the required donations or had already taken care of those. 1 denarius was what the average person earned for working a full work day. A shekel was worth four denarii so the Temple tax was 2 denarii. It is unlikely the widow held a job for which she was paid wages. 2 mites were actually not coins during that time but coins familiar at the time the Bible was first translated into English. In the time of the widow, she would have actually probably donated 2 Greek lepta which was worth 1 quadran the smallest Roman coin. It was worth roughly 6 minutes of a day’s work pay. It is also important to note that right before this passage Jesus had been teaching for people to beware of the scribes who were “devouring the houses of widows”, implying the people at the Temple had probably taken anything of value the widow had for what at that time had become a very corrupt institution and yet she was focused on giving to God

Additional Questions: How can students learn to work with limited money?

Supplemental Activity: Give the students a low income budget and have them work in pairs or groups to determine how to use the money to pay bills, buy food, give money to God, etc. Afterwards, talk with students about the difficulties they ran into along the way.

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