GIVING ALL THAT WE CAN GIVE COUNTS IN THE END


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Rev 14:1-5; Lk 21:1-4 ]

In the gospel, Jesus observed a “poverty-stricken widow putting in two small coins” as her offering into the temple treasury.  It is significant that Jesus had eyes not on the rich people giving money to the Temple but the poor widow.  This is because as the Lord said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow has put in more than any of them; for these have all contributed money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on.”

By so doing, Jesus taught us a great lesson about giving.  It is not so much the amount we give that will be noticed by God, nor is it a measure of our generosity.  Rather, it is what remains with us after we give.  Hence, the rich who gave much did not give much because they gave out of their abundance.  After giving, they still have much left for themselves.  The poor widow gave little, only two coins, but she gave the most since she gave out of her poverty and want.  She left nothing for herself.  She could have kept one coin for herself to pay for her expenses but she gave away all she had.  So the measure of giving is not the amount we give out but the amount we still have after giving.  When we give all that we could possibly give, it shows the generosity of our hearts. Otherwise, when we give out of what we have extra, the sacrifice is much less.

Giving, therefore, is a sacrifice on our part.  It is to give part of ourselves to others, whether in kind, resources or time.   But this sacrifice we make must be voluntary and not out of duty.  There some who give but they do it merely out of duty.  Sometimes parents care for their children out of duty.  Children look after their elderly out of obligation.   They give reluctantly.  Some give out of obligation and guilt.  They see others as having less, but they have so much.  And so they give not because they care for others but simply to soothe their conscience.  St Paul makes it clear that the Lord loves a cheerful giver.  We give because we want to and not because we are compelled by external factors or pressure.

The extent of the sacrifice of love will make the giving more valuable.  It is significant that God does not look at the amount we give but the heart that gives.  This is the greatness of God’s love and justice.  In the eyes of God, we are all equal in giving. All of us can give; even a beggar can give.  It does not matter how much we give.  It depends on the depth of the generosity of the heart.  A poor man can give even more than a rich man in God’s eyes. Hence, the quality of giving is not only dependent on the sacrifice but the depth of love.  The widow gave out of love for God.  Real giving must come from the heart.  Any gift given for display to gain attention and recognition, as Jesus said, has already had its own reward.  But a gift given in pure love is counted in God’s eyes as a greater sacrifice and hence more praiseworthy.

Mother Teresa shared a story about how a beggar gave her all he begged for the whole day.  He said to her, “Mother Teresa, everybody’s giving to you. Today, for the whole day, I got only twenty-nine paise and I want to give it to you.”  Initially Mother Teresa was hesitant to take his money but she was afraid that she might hurt his feelings if she did not receive his money.  On the other hand, she was worried he would not have any food that day since he gave all he collected.  But when she received the money from him, his face brimmed with joy, a joy that Mother Teresa never saw before. Although it was such a small amount and she could get nothing for it, but because he gave all, it was like he gave thousands. This shows that even the poorest can give and giving brings joy to those who are capable of giving.  God does not want to deprive us of the joy of giving.

For this reason, we must never compare what we do for society and Church.  A pope or bishop, a president or a prime minister, a CEO or big time businessman might be able to influence and change society because of his or her office and position in life.   But that does not make them greater than the ordinary and common man who gave his time and service to help the poor, to serve the country or Church. It is not what we do that counts but how we do and how much we give of ourselves.  Alas society only sees the external contribution.  We honour the rich, the powerful and the influential when what they give is just out of their abundance, whereas there are many poor and ordinary people who make more sacrifices than the rich and powerful.

What we give might seem insignificant in the eyes of the world.  We cannot imagine how God will make use of the little we give and transform them into something great.  We remember the story of the Multiplication of loaves.  The little boy shared his five loaves and two fish with the Lord.  And lo and behold, the Lord made use of his little gift to inspire the rest of the people to bring out of their picnic baskets to share their food with those who did not have.  And we read that after feeding the five thousand, excluding women and children, they collected twelve baskets of leftovers. (Cf Mk 6:30-44)  So too the little we give from our hearts will also inspire others to give as well.  Looking at our example, they too will have the courage and generosity to give.

We must avoid falling into the temptation that because our giving is insignificant, it makes no difference. Indeed, this is how the devil discourages us from giving the little that we have.  We say to ourselves that the amount we give is so little and it would not add much to what is needed in the world.  There are so many people who are hungry.  Even if we give all we can give, the world’s hunger and poverty will not be solved.  But we should never allow such thoughts to discourage us because if each does his little part, we can do much good for those who are suffering from hunger, sickness and poverty.  Surely the widow knew that her two coins were insignificant towards the maintenance of the Temple, but we must believe that whatever we do, small or big, will have an impact on those whom we seek to help.

More importantly, giving is not so much for the sake of others or for God but for ourselves.  When we give from a heart of love and generosity, we are sharing in the love of God. The one who gives shares in the joy of God who gave all of Himself.  God is love and His heart is one of love and giving.  Anyone who wants to share in the life of God must also learn to give himself as generously as God gave Himself to us.  He gave us His only begotten Son and Christ gave Himself to us in His death on the cross to teach us what ultimate giving entails.  So the invitation to give is to help us enter the joy of the heart of God who gives. Joy is the sign of the presence of God.   That is why “God loves a cheerful giver.”   True joy only comes through a life of giving.

Indeed, to the extent we give, to that extent we share in the joy of God.   We will not experience this indescribable gift of the joy of Jesus if we do not share in His act of giving to others. Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Lk 6:38)  For this reason, the more we give our lives to others, the more we will live.  “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? The man who tries to find his life will lose it.”  (Mk 8:35-37)

Generous giving presupposes gratitude, faith and trust in God.  We cannot give generously if we do not trust that God will somehow provide us our needs.  St Paul wrote, “The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. As it is written, ‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever.'”  (2 Cor 9:6-9)

Only those who believe that God is their security are willing to part with their wealth to others.  But this trust can happen only if we are grateful for what we have already received.  If we lack gratitude for what we have, it means that our trust is not in God but in ourselves, in our savings, insurance policies and business and work. If we come to realize how generous God has been to us all these years of our life, then we can continue to live in trust that He will always provide for us.  We are only stewards of His blessings for us.

Jesus is our exemplar of giving. Jesus was a self-emptying person because He imitated His Father’s utter giving of Himself.  The Father gave Himself totally in His Son. “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son.” (John 3:16)  Christ in highlighting the example of the widow in His last days on earth anticipated His total giving of Himself and His life to His Father and to us all.  Meditating on His self-emptying love, we will find the strength and inspiration to love as He has loved us.

We also have the shining example of the 144,000 martyrs who followed Jesus to death. “There in front of the throne they were singing a new hymn in the presence of the four animals and the elders, a hymn that could only be learnt by the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the world; they follow the Lamb wherever he goes; they have been redeemed from amongst men to be the first-fruits for God and for the Lamb. They never allowed a lie to pass their lips and no fault can be found in them.”  These were those who were redeemed by Christ and out of gratitude, followed Him not just in life but in death.   They gave their entire life to the Lord.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved


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