Jesus’ teaching on the poor widow in Mark 12:41-44: Towards a contextual reading of the text in relation to the church’s teaching on giving


Okeno P. Akoth


The poor widow in Mark 12:41-44 is praised for her generosity shown in contributing what she had to the Temple treasury. Because she contributes “out of her poverty”, she is actually more generous than all the rich people who contribute large sums out of their surplus. This seems to hold up the widow as an example of the true piety and generosity that exist among God’s people. However, the context of Mark 12:41- 44 raises the question whether the generosity of the poor widow should be taken as an occasion for praise as it has been traditionally held or for lament, as some scholars have suggested. When interpreted as cause for lament, the widow’s action would illustrate the perils of institutional religion whereby the Temple establishment manipulated this generous woman into parting with what little she possessed. This research has discussed the meaning of the poor widow’s story, by means of an exegetical analysis of the pericope and, subsequently, by the contextual reading of this pericope within its immediate narrative context, as well as in the broader context of the whole Markan narrative. The research has followed the steps of exegeting a biblical text such as historical approach, literary approach, text and translation, biblical and theological approach as well as application among others. The research has proposed a theological concept, “A concern for God’s Law on widows.” The argument has been that the poor widow should not be thought of as the exemplary giver.  Rather, she is more properly to be understood as the exemplary victim of a corrupt religious establishment. This research has established that Jesus’ words concerning the widow and her offering, is not a commendation, but is the crowning condemnation of the temple establishment.  Further, it has established the single sin of the scribes for which Jesus condemns them (Mark 12:40) and which is aggravated by their office as the official teachers of Israel’s religion. Their sin had a direct impact on the economic welfare of the widow in particular and the entire people in general. They compounded their sin of hypocrisy by actually overturning the Law of Moses, thus robbing those in society who were the most needy and vulnerable. On this understanding the research has shown that, the widow’s impoverished condition alone is a scandal in Israel in the light of Torah. But the circumstances of her poverty make the scandal far more grievous, for it has come at the hands of those who are teachers in Israel: the guardians of Torah and the true religion of Yahweh.


How to Cite
Akoth, O. P. . (2024). Jesus’ teaching on the poor widow in Mark 12:41-44: Towards a contextual reading of the text in relation to the church’s teaching on giving. African Multidisciplinary Journal of Research, 8(II), 66–87. Retrieved from