“Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.’”
First of all, it’s kind of telling that Jesus notes what we put in the offering plate. He is interested as is heaven. When the rich put in large gifts heaven yawned, as there was no sacrifice, no faith in those gifts. But when the widow put in her two mites, you can almost hear whistles and “Wow! Did you see that?” from the angels.
The Greek word for mite is lepton. It’s not a money term, but simply means “tiny thing.” Mark is writing to a Roman audience, so he mentions that they were smaller than the smallest Imperial Roman coin, the quadrans. Pictured is an example of a lepton minted by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. This particular coin, dated to Caesar Tiberius’ reign, was made in the year that Christ died: AD 31. The legend says “Tiberius Caesar’s.” And prominently depicted is an augur, a pagan religious symbol, that was part of Tiberius’ personal religious faith…but it certainly would have deeply offended Pilate’s Jewish subjects.
Notice the sharp edges. You can see why Jesus encouraged disciples to get leather pouches that didn’t “wax old” (or wear out from sharp-edged coins!). But more germane to the story is that the widow gave a gift that would inspire others through the centuries to give so much that she really DID “put in more than all.”