In the first century C.E., the annual temple tax paid by the Jews was “two drachmas,” worth about two days’ wages. (Matthew 17:24) By contrast, Jesus said that two sparrows sold “for a coin of small value,” the equivalent of 45 minutes’ wages. In fact, five sparrows could be obtained for double this price, or the wages for about 90 minutes’ work.—Matthew 10:29; Luke 12:6.
The temple contribution made by the needy widow whom Jesus observed was worth far less than that. These two coins, or two lepta, were the smallest copper coins used in Israel at that time. They were the equivalent of a mere 1⁄64 of a day’s wages, or less than 12 minutes’ wages if based on an average workday of 12 hours.
Jesus Christ valued the widow’s gift as being greater than that of all those who had donated more “out of their surplus.” Why? The account mentions that she had “two small coins,” so she could have contributed one and kept the other for herself. Yet, she gave “all of what she had, her whole living.”—Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:2-4.