Feed on

the least


The Least.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.

Mark 12:41-43

She didn’t have much. In fact, she didn’t have anything of significant monetary value.

She was a widow, and she was poor.

And she was among the crowd of people coming to the temple to give their offerings. The wealthy made a big show of it, tossing their large sums of money into the temple treasury. She, on the other hand, made no demonstrative display of her gift when she dropped two small copper coins – such a coin was called a lepton, meaning “thin one” – into the treasury. This was not a fat offering. It was, literally, a very lean gift.

Perhaps, as Jesus and his disciples sat on the other side of this scene, nothing looked out-of-the-ordinary. I imagine there were a number of people, walking through the queue, waiting their turn to submit their offerings. This poor widow, most likely obscure in the hustle and bustle of the crowd around her, elicited no extra attention or admiration. She dropped her coins and moved along in the river of humanity.

But Jesus saw her. He didn’t just see her; he pointed her out. He paid significant attention to this woman, invisible to the world.

Jesus does that.

He sees the hidden treasures around us, and he redirects our focus. His heart is drawn to the least of these. He doesn’t praise them because of their lowly status, but he acknowledges and affirms their actions despite their status.

The widow woman, holding her entire earthly wealth in her hands, tossed it all into the offering.

She gave out of her poverty – the least of everyone.

Yet, Jesus said she gave the most.

The kingdom that Jesus taught about throughout his ministry was an upside-down – paradox to the human understanding of greatness – kind of kingdom.

If you want to be great, then you must become a servant – the least of these.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Mark 9:35

When he made this statement to the disciples, he didn’t leave anything out. He was clear and direct. This wasn’t a coaching session on how to become a great leader. It was a difficult conversation speaking to the condition of the disciples’ hearts (the condition of our hearts as well) and expressing this hard-to-swallow kingdom mindset of lowering ourselves to title-less servants of Christ. He gave them no false promises that if they become the very last that they will be servant leaders of all. No. Jesus was very serious about this issue. In fact, rather than teach and express this significant kingdom principle by walking and talking, he sat them down. It was as if he was saying to them, “This is a lesson I don’t want you to miss. If you miss this, you miss everything.” He plainly and intentionally communicated that the greatest, in God’s sight, are the least: the ones who serve, and whose highest ambition is to serve like Christ.

And then he told them that if they sought for greatness in his Kingdom they must find it, not by being first, but by being last; not by being masters, but by being servants of all. It was not that Jesus abolished ambition. Rather, he recreated and sublimated ambition. For the ambition to rule, he substituted the ambition to serve. For the ambition to have things done for us, he substituted the ambition to do things for others.

William Barclay

This way of Jesus shoots straight to the heart. While the disciples were arguing over who would be the greatest, Jesus was always – always- redirecting their gaze…their attention…to the least. We cannot hold on to our self-righteousness when we sit this close to Jesus. His ways are so far beyond ours- the complete and utter opposite of our natural inclinations.

“They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:44

The widow woman…who gave her “thin one” to God, gave more than any person who showed up to church that day. The wealthy gave out of their wealth. It is not a sacrifice when there is a deep reservoir to continue to draw from. She, on the other hand, gave all that she had…what might have been useful for oil, or flour, or some form of shelter. Her gift that day was a treasure far weightier than any sack of money poured into the temple bucket. In Christ’s upside-down kingdom, she would be considered “greatest”.

But I don’t think that this kind of greatness is a title that many of us are keen on snatching up. How many of us are truly prepared to be the least- to give an offering that won’t gain us significant earthly approval? How many of us are honestly willing to become servants without promise of promotion?

These are big questions.

This was what Jesus wanted his disciples to grasp.

It is what he wants us to internalize and hold firmly to today.

The greatest is Jesus.

We recognize that not one of us can carry the weight that he carried, so why do we attempt to place man on a scale of greatness when Jesus is part of the equation? Are any one of us prepared to take on the sin of the world and sacrifice our lives on a cross for the redemption of all mankind? It is difficult for me to lay down my life for my husband and family…I’m selfish, and I get tired and irritated and struggle with feelings of entitlement. Can you relate? Even when I do surrender and push aside my selfish will, I find I have to continuously lay my ambitions at the foot of the cross. This act of surrender is a daily act of obedience.

Greatness in God’s eyes is not the pursuit of greatness, but the pursuit of the cross-bearing life; choosing to lay our lives down for others and serving them with the willingness to sacrifice any hope of earthly greatness in the act of giving. It is about our hearts.

In both of these stories, we see that Jesus is shifting the paradigm. It has nothing to do with wealth and poverty in the natural sense, but about the wealth and poverty of the soul. How much are we willing to sacrifice and surrender to God? Greatness has nothing to do with titles and hierarchy, but about laying down our lives for the sake of others; becoming servants of all. Period.

There was a profound difference between a servant and a slave in biblical times. A slave was one who was owned by another person, taken against their will and forced into servitude. A servant, on the other hand, was a person who voluntarily chose to serve. Jesus came, not to be a slave, but he came on his own free will to serve…to give his life. And Jesus exhorted his disciples, and exhorts us today, not to live as slaves but to live as servants; freely giving our lives and our treasure, our gifts and our ambition to Jesus and his purposes.

When we place ourselves in proper alignment to Jesus Christ, we see that we really are the least. That even the greatest accomplishments and skills, gifts, and offerings we offer are like the widow woman’s lepton, “thin one”. While we can never match the sacrifice that Christ made for the world, we can take our two small copper coins – the little we do have – and give it all in service to Jesus. We can humble ourselves to the status of servants.

God honors the least. It doesn’t make sense. None of it does. The math will never add up…it will never equal the greatness that we so often seek. But it is the way of Jesus. It is the way of good. It is the hope this world has. I am so inspired to give my “thin one” to Jesus- to be counted as the least. If it draws me closer to Jesus – to his heart…to his character…to deeper intimacy – then let me be a servant of all.

Humility is the mark of Christ. It is the way of power used rightly. It is Godlike to serve in humility. He who sits on the throne was the servant of all while here, and on the throne he continues to serve us by his Spirit. We must know him well and deeply if his work is to be accomplished.

Diane Langberg, Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church

If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

One Response to “the least”

  1. Judy Hayburn says:

    You said it so beautifully, Amy. Oh, to have the heart of true humility and servanthood that the widow portrayed and thus received the commendation of Christ Himself.

Leave a Reply