September 30, 2018 | The Shepherd
Jesus tells us a story about the poor widow. The temple is full of the noise of coins dropping. The thirteen big receptacles, shaped like ear trumpets, make a loud clanging of metal on metal. The usual donations are given by those who have surplus to spare. Then comes a poor widow who gives her last two pennies, the substance of her life. Jesus says “they give a little of their extra fat, while she gave up her last penny.” (Mark 12:41-44)
I read of an interesting fact the other day: The per-member giving is highest in churches whose members make the least amount of money, and it is lowest in churches whose members have the highest income. What this seems to indicate is that serious giving is not a matter of wealth but of attitude. Why is this? I believe there are at least a couple of reasons: The first is that persons who themselves have known really hard times seem to find it easier to share their means, as meager as these may be, than those who have never really wanted.
A second reason is that such persons often give generously because they have never had enough money to fall in love with. My guess is that they love God a great deal, having come to depend on him instead of money for their security. Maybe some of us who have so much, in comparison, give so little because we have been seduced by money and the things it can give us. Certainly, Jesus was aware of the power money holds over us: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24).
In India there is a small community of Christians living in run-down houses, wearing worn-out clothes, and eating an inadequate diet of food who are tithing their minute incomes in order to help spread the Gospel in their land. Who is better off, these Indian Christians or we who possess so much? We who live in sturdy houses, who dress comfortably, who eat three square meals a day—we who find it difficult to tithe our sizable incomes but have left this practice to the poor—we are the impoverished ones. What lesson can we learn from these Indian Christians and from those who have so little but give so generously? The blessing is in giving from our substance and not from our excess. This keeps our whole lives in perspective and has profound spiritual implications.
In the Dark Ages Christianity made its first great impact on the peoples of northern Europe. Large numbers of the savage tribe of Franks professed the Christian faith and presented themselves for baptism by immersion. But many of them were not sure they wanted to give up their warring ways. Consequently, they would walk into the river to be immersed holding their battle-axes out of the water. They would then say, “this hand has never been baptized,” so they could continue to use it for killing. Well, we do not carry battle-axes around with us today but we do carry wallets and purses and checkbooks which some of us lift up in a way that is strikingly similar. How about you: has your checkbook been baptized? Where does the work of this parish and other charities fall in your list of financial priorities?
Make no mistake about it, our giving to the Church and to other charities is directly tied to our relationship to God.