on Mark 12 :41
Cast money into the treasury - It is worthy of observation, that the money put into the treasury, even by the rich, is termed by the evangelist χαλκον, brass money, probably that species of small brass coin which was called פרוטה prutah among the Jews, two of which make a farthing, and twenty-four an Italian assarius, which assarius is the twenty-fourth part of a silver penny. We call this, mite, from the French, miete, which signifies a crumb, or very small morsel. The prutah was the smallest coin in use among the Jews: and there is a canon among the rabbins that no person shall put less than two prutahs into the treasury. This poor widow would not give less, and her poverty prevented her from giving more. And whereas it is said that many rich persons cast in Much, πολλα, (many), this may only refer to the number of the prutahs which they threw in, and not to the value. What opinion should we form of a rich man, who, in a collection for a public charity, only threw in a handful of halfpence? See Luke 21:1, and see the note on Matthew 5:26. The whole of this account is lacking in Matthew. Another proof that Mark did not abridge him.
Let us examine this subject a little more closely: Jesus prefers the widow's two mites to all the offerings made by the rich.
In the preceding account, Mark 12:41, it is said Jesus beheld how the people cast money into the treasury. To make this relation the more profitable, let us consider Christ the observer and judge of human actions.
I. Christ the observer.
1. Christ observes all men and all things: all our actions are before his eyes, what we do in public and what we do in private are equally known unto him.
2. He observes the state and situation we are in: his eye was upon the abundance of the rich who had given much; and he was well acquainted with the poverty and desolate state of the widow who had given her all, though that was but little in itself. What an awful thought for the rich!
"God sees every penny I possess, and constantly observes how I lay it out." What a comfortable thought for the poor and desolate! The eye of the most merciful and bountiful Jesus continually beholds my poverty and distress, and will cause them to work for my good.
3. Christ sees all the motives which lead men to perform their respective actions; and the different motives which lead them to perform the same action: he knows whether they act through vanity, self-love, interest, ambition, hypocrisy, or whether through love, charity, zeal for his glory, and a hearty desire to please him.
4. He observes the circumstances which accompany our actions; whether we act with care or negligence, with a ready mind or with reluctance.
5. He observes the judgment which we form of that which we do in his name; whether we esteem ourselves more on account of what we have done, speak of it to others, dwell on our labors, sufferings, expenses, success, etc., or whether we humble ourselves because we have done so little good, and even that little in so imperfect a way.
II. See the judgment Christ forms of our actions.
1. He appears surprised that so much piety should be found with so much poverty, in this poor widow.
2. He shows that works of charity, etc., should be estimated, not by their appearance, but by the spirit which produces them.
3. He shows by this that all men are properly in a state of equality; for though there is and ought to be a difference in outward things, yet God looks upon the heart, and the poorest person has it in his power to make his mite as acceptable to the Lord, by simplicity of intention, and purity of affection, as the millions given by the affluent. It is just in God to rate the value of an action by the spirit in which it is done.
on Mark 12 :41
Sat over against - Opposite to, in full sight of.
The treasury - This was in the court of the women. See the notes at Matthew 21:12. In that court there were fixed a number of places or coffers, made with a large open mouth in the shape of a trumpet, for the purpose of receiving the offerings of the people; and the money thus contributed was devoted to the service of the temple - to incense, sacrifices, etc.
on Mark 12 :41
12:41 He beheld how people cast money into the treasury - This treasury received the voluntary contributions of the worshippers who came up to the feast; which were given to buy wood for the altar, and other necessaries not provided for in any other way. Lu 21:1.