Giving Our All: Lessons Learned from the Poor Widow’s Offering
Who among us these days would put all our money from our own pockets/wallets into the collection baskets as part of our Church offering? I’m not so sure if anyone does. Most probably no one, or maybe there could be…. I don’t know! Perhaps, it depends on the amount of money left in our wallets. For ordinary people like me, normally we pull out a few bucks, an amount that is comfortable to us, and retain some of them for obvious reasons.
I can understand if we are not able to literally live up to the standard set by the poor woman, as depicted in the Gospel reading today, who gave her 2 coins in the Treasury which was all she had. She could have opted to give just one of it, but she gave both. But what the poor woman did, for giving her all, was truly admirable. I am no rich person but still, I am embarrassed, guilty and humbled by this. There were times that instead of giving out some things, I just kept it with the end view of utilizing the same for “rainy” days. Is this fair enough? Maybe yes, … or, maybe not because I could have shared it with others who at that time needed it most.
Having 2 coins during those days would probably afford the poor widow to spend it for something else she needs, right? But she didn’t. As portrayed in the longer version of this reading in the Scriptures, she was a woman with a pure heart, very generous with so much faith in God, placing her life in God’s hands and believing that God will provide for her daily needs.
So, what can we learn from the poor widow’s example? Why did St. Luke highlight the said story of the poor woman’s contribution with emphasis on our Lord Jesus’ observation/conclusion that the “poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury”? Specifically, Jesus noted that the contributions of the other people came from their surplus wealth, which was easy and convenient for them to do so. To our Lord Jesus, the rich people (e.g., Scribes, et al) donated a great deal more than the poor woman but given their resources it requires little generosity on their part. As Jesus puts it, they contribute out of their abundance, but the poor widow out of her poverty has given all of it. Thus, even if the poor woman’s donation involved a small amount of money, her gesture of kindness was truly meaningful and significant.
Seemingly, Jesus was impressed and touched by the poor woman’s kindness that He even conveyed what He saw to His disciples so they can share it with others as well. Jesus may have predicted that the said story could have relevance in the future since this is also happening in our time, where we are today.
We’ve heard analysis on this in the past from the homilies of our respective parish priests and pastors, and have probably read articles on the same thing, but have we absorbed the gist of it all? Have we encountered the same story of the poor widow these days? Well, we have encountered people who are materially and spiritually poor, but have we been able to be of help to them? Have we given our all, or a big chunk of our resources or offered help to someone in need. Our Lord Jesus is trying to remind us to be generous not only with our treasures (material wealth) but also with our time and talents, our willingness to give of ourselves to help others, and most of all to have faith in Him just like the poor widow who was not only generous, but she had the gift of faith as well.
The context of the poor widow’s story is strong and compelling. The essence and the intent of giving have been emphasized in the story, impressing to us that Jesus knows what is in our hearts when we give. This is applicable to the society where we currently belong. Nowadays, when people donate something “BIG” particularly for charitable causes, most of the time it has an accompanying press release or an announcement to the whole wide world via tweets or posts in both tri and social media sites. It is being camouflaged as part of their company’s social responsibility but actually some of it are for personal and business gains. It is easy for them to shell out a portion of their funds as it can eventually be recouped within a short period of time anyway. However, I don’t doubt the fact that there are certain people who quietly give when no one is watching and sans fanfare. I also believe that there are very generous people, regardless of status in life, who truly give even if it hurts. Whatever their intentions are and the reasons behind it, only God knows.
Generosity is a beautiful thing. God wants us to have this virtue. He wants us to help others especially those in dire need. But our act of giving should be genuine, not feigned. Jesus may not be asking us to give up everything we have, our entire livelihood. He’s simply requesting for our loving hearts, hearts that are willing to sacrifice even if it cost us big and to help people who are not just materially poor but those who are suffering from life’s unfortunate events.
There is joy in giving if and when we are truly generous with God, with our neighbors and in everything we do. As St. Francis of Assisi stated, “it is in giving that we receive”, that is, when we sincerely give something, we receive rewards later, perhaps not here but in Heaven. St. Paul once preached this: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Remember we won’t be able to bring what we have on earth when we go to another state of life. So, let’s be generous, not only with our surpluses, but with the things even small ones that we can share and are needed most by others.
I would like to end this reflection with a prayer:
Loving and generous God, we ask thee to grant us loving and generous hearts like that of the poor woman. Guide us in giving ourselves to others, even if we don’t have so much. Help us develop and use our talents that you have given us and help us to be kind with our time, our abilities and our compassion to others with great love. Our Father God, this we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.