God loves a generous giver

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

Jesus became man to proclaim the Good News of our salvation in loving obedience to the will of His Father -- even unto death. One of the most important components of Jesus' mission is the formation of His followers "in His image and likeness" so that they could carry on from where He left. It is amazing how Jesus could accomplish this by drawing out an extraordinary lesson from the most ordinary act. In the gospel reading (Mk. 12: 38-44), Jesus wanted to teach His disciples what true generosity is all about.

Jesus was sitting opposite the place where the offerings for the maintenance of the Temple were dropped. He was watching the crowd dropping their contributions. Many rich people gave large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood."

Here, we see Jesus pointing to the poor widow as the model His disciples should emulate. Though the rich gave much, Jesus had no praise for them. But He was all praises for the poor widow. Why? She only had two coins and she could have kept one for herself and still be very generous. But no, she gave both. "She has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood," said Jesus. She let go of everything and committed herself wholly to the providence of God. As one spiritual writer has said, "For Jesus, true generosity is measured not by what people give but by what they have left after they give." Or as another writer has said, "The world computes in amounts, God computes in percentages." Thus in people's list, the widow is last while the big contributor is first. But In God's eyes, the big contributor is last, while the widow is first -- she gave 100% of what she had.

Why does God like generosity and reward it? Because to be generous is to be most like God. The whole history of God's intervention in human history is one of generosity -- the creation of the first man and woman with whom God wanted to share His riches, the promise of a savior after the Fall, the gift of His own Son for our redemption and the gift of the Holy Spirit for our sanctification.

We too are all called to be generous. If we look at ourselves, what do we have that we did not receive? Our life, talents, possessions -- they are all gifts from God. In fact, the only thing that is really ours is our sin. If we follow the example of the widow and Jesus Himself who gave His very life for us, we, too, are to be generous to others, to share what we have to others.

But more than just the act of giving, we must watch why we give, that is, our intention in giving. As we know, Jesus had only scathing words against the Scribes and the Pharisees, specially in the way they behave. When they made their contributions, they went to public places so that their gesture would be noticed and praised. How did Jesus call such people? Hypocrites: "When you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show out of it as the hypocrites do" (Mt. 6,2).

We have modern versions of the Scribes and Pharisees. Today, when some people give to charity, they call for a press conference so that the whole world would know of their generosity. Not so with the followers of Jesus. We are to give in secret and for no other reason but to be of help to a brother or sister, in need.

What can we give? Our time, talent and treasure.

Time. There is always someone out there who needs at least a listening ear. And church and civic organizations can always use an extra hand. But what do we say? Busy ako, wala akong panahon. Yes, busy making money or building a career or passing time with our hobbies. How skewed some of our priorities are!

Talent. Talents are given to us to share with others. If you are a good singer, you do not sing only in the bathroom but before others to give them listening pleasure. If you are a bright student, help the slower students. If you are an expert in a particular field, share it with others so that they will profit from your expertise.

Treasure. Sometimes, all we can give is only a glass of water. But that is already something to a thirsty person. If you have no material goods to give, at least share kindness, knowledge, friendship -- all in the name of love. For did not Jesus say, "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers that you do unto me?"

The example provided by the poor widow is certainly difficult to follow. But Jesus is not asking for anything less from His disciples.