THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE WIDOW’S MITE
November 22, 2010
Today’s reading: Luke 21:1-4
the gospel of Luke brings us to the story of the
widow and her contribution to the temple treasury.
Here we have a profound lesson to learn about financial
know that we are to support the life and mission
of the Church through our finances. We basically
do this through a tithe, that is, 10% of our income.
However, very few Christians, and much less Catholics,
actually give a full 10% (if they give anything
at all). To these, God has a harsh word. They are
robbing God and so are accursed (Mal 3:7-9).
those who do give something, they fall short. The
rich do not give a full tithe because the amount
is too big. It amuses me (disturbs me) that people
can more easily give a full tithe when their income
is small, but are reluctant to give the full 10%
when their income becomes large. How incongruous
that is! Look on the 90% and not on the 10%! See
how much more you have left over after the tithe.
On the other hand, the poor do not give a full tithe
because their finances are too small. The rich,
being able to afford it, have no excuse and rightly
deserve condemnation. The poor however may have
good reasons not to give a full tithe, such as not
having enough food for the day-to-day needs of the
family. But the story of the widow brings us to
a profound challenge.
Let us look at the story. Jesus is in the temple
and observes the rich putting their offerings into
the treasury, and also a widow putting in her two
small coins. The contrast could not be starker.
The others are wealthy. The widow is poor. In fact,
in Israel at that time, to be a widow was to be
destitute. They had no one to care for them, and
they had no standing in society. They needed to
just fend for themselves, and oftentimes just begged
for their needs. The rich people put in large sums
(Mk 12:41), while the poor widow put in a measly
does Jesus do? Does he tell the widow to no longer
give her small offering and just keep it for herself?
Knowing that she would probably go hungry because
she was giving the little that she had, did he stop
her from giving? Did Jesus slip her a little money
later on while whispering to her that he appreciated
her generosity of heart? No! Jesus just let her
give. And then he extolled her. He considered her
small offering as more than all the rest (Lk 21:3).
The rich would not miss what they gave, having given
from their surplus wealth, and would go on with
their lavish lifestyles, but the poor widow gave
from her poverty and offered her whole livelihood
(Lk 21:4). Knowing her generosity would impact greatly
on her life and her needs, Jesus still allowed her
to make the sacrifice.
How about us? The argument (whether true or just
a rationalization) people often give for not giving
a full tithe is that their money is not enough for
their own needs. Let me tell you, if that is our
excuse, we will never give adequately to God. What
we need to consider is not our seeming need, but
the condition of our hearts. And in this story is
the challenge to us. Hardly anyone could be as poor
as that widow. Jesus has in effect raised this poor
widow as the model for those who say they do not
have enough and thus do not give.
let us not be inconsiderate of needs, and let us
then consider the practicalities. What if we really
do not have enough for our needs? Well, first examine
if that is true. What do we spend on? Perhaps there
are things there that we do not need to spend on
what if we really do not have enough? Well, consider
this. Let us assume you do not have enough now.
If you get a 10% or 20% raise in pay, would you
have enough? Most probably not. You would still
be spending it all. Why? Because, as our pay rises,
we also raise our standard of living. We acquire
more things, we eat better food, we go out for entertainment
more often, we have a more extended vacation, we
buy a new car, we now have investments, etc. Ironically
enough, we praise God for providing, not realizing
how we are robbing Him.
consider the other way. What if our pay is cut by
10% or 20%? That has happened to many given the
worldwide economic crisis. Does our life end? No!
What we do is we adjust. We tighten our belts, we
do not go shopping, we cut down on entertainment,
we forgo the vacation, we stay with our old car,
etc. And if times are really hard, we just stick
to the essentials, such as food and simple clothing
(1 Tim 6:8). We might even make radical moves such
as changing our house to a much smaller one, or
sending out children to schools with lower tuition.
So it might not be so much a case of what we need
(or believe we need). It actually is a case of generosity.
And it is a case of priorities. It is seeing what
God is about in the world, and that for the body
that He entrusted to bring His good news of salvation
to all, He makes Himself dependent on “our”
money. Do we then indulge ourselves (even the poor
do so), or do we honor God by giving financial support
to the Church, even in our need?
us then look to adjusting our spending so that we
can give money to God and the needs of His Church.
The widow gave out of her poverty. Hers was a true
need. And thus hers was true generosity, enough
to be extolled by Jesus himself.
In fact, could our continuing financial shortage
actually be a result of our failure to give what
is due to God? I leave that for another time.
now, let us look at the privilege and honor of giving
from our need. And when you are tempted to rationalize
a failure to give or to give adequately, think about
the widow. Think about how happy and fulfilled you
would be if Jesus said to you what he said about
starter for household meeting:
Examine your own finances and share about
what you could actually do without, in order
to lessen your expenses and be able to honor
God with a tithe.
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