The woman drew her cloak around her and looked around the small room. Spare, sparse, but clean and well looked after. Home.
She picked up a bag and placed two small copper coins in it, leaving the shelf bare. Then she opened the door and left.
She walked down the street with her head down, keeping close to the walls, withdrawing from the people as they passed. She crossed the busy market place without stopping until she came to the temple gates. Then she sat down on a stony wall and watched and waited.
The courtyard was busy, thronging with people. Close to where she sat, a man was addressing the crowds. He spoke with authority and his voice was compelling. Barely moving her head, the woman raised her eyes to his face, just for a moment.
Turning, she saw a group of men enter on the other side of the courtyard. They seemed intent on something, moving as one. She watched as they noticed the man who was speaking and walked resolutely towards him. As they drew closer, they pushed through the listening crowd, stopping right below where he stood. Then one of them spoke.
“Teacher, we know that you speak the truth about God and are not afraid of what others might think. Tell us – is it right to pay our taxes to Caesar or not?”
The teacher turned his face full upon the speaker and met his gaze.
“Why do you try to trick me? Give me a coin.”
The woman touched her money through the fabric of her bag as a coin was passed up from the crowd. The teacher held it up and spoke again.
“Whose name and image are on this coin?”
“Caesar’s,” came a voice from the throng.
“Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God that which is God’s,” said the teacher.
Silence followed. The woman watched as the men who had approached so purposefully shuffled their feet and drifted away in ones and twos. The teacher continued speaking.
She turned her eyes back to the temple. A steady stream of people entered and left, many well dressed and followed by attendants carrying large heavy bags. The woman felt her two small coins again and lowered her eyes. When she next looked up, the teacher and his crowd had gone.
Rising from the wall, she picked up her bag and walked into the temple. Head down, she moved quickly towards the money box. Standing as close as she dared, she slipped her hand into her bag, withdrew her two small copper coins and dropped them into the box in one smooth movement.
As she turned, she felt someone watching her. Pausing, she lifted her gaze and found herself looking directly into the eyes of the teacher who had been speaking outside the temple. He looked straight at her and the world stopped for a moment.
Then she turned and left the temple, and walked back to her spare, sparse home, with her head held high and with dignity in her steps.
Mark 12: 13-17, 41-44