The Widow’s Best

On the Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus and his disciples return to the Temple where Jesus teaches and debates with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus also witnesses a commendable act of faith and devotion.

This villanelle is based upon the story of the Widow’s Mite found in Luke 21:1-4 which reads,

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

John Tissot’s painting of the same account choses to imagine the moment a bit differently than I. I imagine the moment of her offering being one that is ignored by all except Jesus. Tissot, however, imagines how the widow may have experienced her giving in this public place being watched by all. In his painting, Tissot, has one of the wealthy depositing his offering just as the woman walks away with her child. What is one to make of the position of the hand of the man making his offering behind the widow? It is an unusual intersection, my wife says and must be deliberate. What may Tissot be saying about one who is giving and this widow with her child who is walking away.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

From her poverty she gave more than they
Who gave of their wealth, who gave from their best;
All she had to live on, she gave away.

Their offering was a giving display
Giving to show they had more than the rest;
From her poverty, she gave more than they.

For they fill their hearts with what other’s say
The real treasure buried ‘neath their vest;
All she had to live on, she gave away.

The crashing of shekels like a surf’s spray
Washes in praise as they empty their chest;
From her poverty, she gave more than they.

Round the Temple’s court, the Rabbi’s eyes stray
To one who gives from how much she’s been blessed;
All she had to live on she gave away.

He wonders at one who gives, freely lays
Down her living, no trouble or unrest;
From her poverty, she gave more than they
All she had to live on, she gave away.

© Randy Edwards 2017.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog ( Thanks.

Artwork: James Tissot, The Widow’s Mite (Le denier de la veuve), 1886-1894, Brooklyn Museum.

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