Posts Tagged Generosity
Parables are comparisons in which spiritual truth is pictured in vivid terms (Blomberg 1990). “Jesus’ invitation to enter his Kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching (Cf. Mk 4:33-34).
The Parable that was just read is commonly known as the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Mark Bailey calls this parable, “A day on the job in the kingdom of God.” (because the work takes place throughout the day and the payroll is at the end of the day.)
The parable emphasizes the times that the laborers were hired. The Landowner hired laborers early in the morning (6:00) and made an agreement with them to pay them a denarius for the day’s work. It says the owner agreed which makes me think the workers asked for the denarius and he agreed to it.
The Landowner went out again at 9:00, 12:00, 3:00 and 5:00 and asked others if they would like to come to work without indicating what they would earn, only that he would be fair (vs. 4). If the first guy is going to get 1 denarius for 12 hours work, what do you expect the 2nd group to get? 3/4, then 1/2 then 1/4 and then 1/12th respectively.
At the end of the day, the Landowner went to pay them and started with the last group. He gave them each 1 denarius. What do you expect the next group to get? Three denarii. The next group six, and the next nine and the first group that was hired expects to get 12 denarii. But he gave everyone the same amount – one denarius – regardless of whether they had worked one hour or twelve hours.
It is not surprising therefore, that those were hired first complained and accused the owner of being unfair.
But the owner justifies his actions:
- on the basis of agreement – they agreed to work for a denarius. The owner calls him “friend” which in Matt is not a term of endearment.
- on the basis of ownership – can I do what I want with what is mine?
- on the basis of generosity – can I be gracious to whom I want to be gracious?
Again, is the landowner unjust or unfair? Certainly not. The landowner is just when he paid them all individually with the same amount or salary because that was the thing agreed upon by the landowner and the labourers. The landowner is generous, compassionate and merciful when he paid them all individually with the same amount regardless of of whether they had worked one hour or twelve hours. Simply stated, the landowner is not unjust. Rather he is both just and gracious or compassionate or merciful.
This is the message and the challenge for all of us who are adopted children of God: to be just yet gracious, merciful and compassionate. “Mercy without justice is baloney. Justice without mercy is tyranny.”
“Grace and mercy are both expressions of God’s love, grace to the guilty and undeserving, mercy to the needy and helpless” (John Stott, The Letters of John). Let us, therefore, be merciful as Jesus is merciful (Lk 6:36) for “whoever acts without mercy will be judged without mercy” (James 2:13).May we have mercy on all, especially to those who are going through a time when they are given little or no mercy.
Prayer: Father, may I love those considered unlovable.
As Jesus made His way towards Jerusalem where death awaits him, He stopped in the village of Bethany where He was invited to dinner party by a wealthy friend named Simon. In the course of the gathering, a woman interrupted the meal which shocked all those who were present.
What scandalized them? First, they were shocked because the woman who came to Jesus loosened her hair in public. During that time, to loosen one’s hair in public even for a married woman, was a sign of grave immodesty. Second, they were shocked because the woman wasted lot of money when she anointed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment. When Mary anointed Jesus with an oil worth a whole year’s wages, Judas protested that the perfume could have been sold. It would have brought three hundred silver pieces (he’ll betray Jesus for just thirty), and then the money could have been given to the poor. Jesus, however, fully aware that he is a traitor, unconcerned about the poor, and a thief.
The contrast between Judas and Mary of Bethany is powerful. Mary spent what she had on “very costly ointment” in a gesture of love, affection, and respect. While Judas complained for losing the money that does not belong to him in the guise of being concern for the poor.
How did Jesus react to that given situation? Jesus defended what the woman did for him out of gratitude and thanksgiving and then used that occasion to teach them about the virtue of hospitality and his imminent passion and death in the hands of the scribes and the pharisees who will deliver him to the pagans to be mocked, crucified and be killed.
For Jesus hospitality is more than just welcoming a guest into one’s house. It is more than just serving a guest with food and drink. For Jesus, hospitality is, above all, welcoming someone what he stands for or represents. This is the reason why he praised what Mary did to him than Martha who prepared everything for their meal when he visited their home once. On that ocassion Mary both as a friend and a disciple welcomed Jesus and what he stands for and represents.
Today is Monday of the Holy Week. On this day, let us reflect on the prophetic anointing of Jesus by a woman named Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus who were close friends of Jesus), which foreshadowed Jesus’ imminent death, honored Him as God’s anointed, and poured out to Him love and devotion too deep for words. Her action reminds us that our journey through Holy Week is a matter of the heart.
Giving is necessary expression of Christian faith and love, the spontaneous outcome of Christian life. “Freely you received, freely give” (Mt 10:8). James I. McCord (1919-90) once said, “I cannot think of a better definition of Christianity than that: give, give, give.” “It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving” (Richard Braunstein). Hence, Christian who never gives is a dead Christian. As the saying goes, “The Dead Sea is the dead sea because it continually receives and never gives” (Anonymous).
The essence of generosity is self sacrifice. As Barclay says, “Giving does not begin to be real giving until it hurts.” Jesus commended the widow not for giving away so much, but for keeping so little” (Ed Owens). “He who gives what he would as readily throw away, gives without generosity; for the essence of generosity is in self sacrifice” (James Taylor). “Our culture values the size of the gift, but God values the size of what we keep” (Ed Owens). Hence, Bishop Fulton J, Sheen warns, “Never measure your generosity by what you give, but rather by what you have left.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus presents a poor widow as one who gives all, personifying one who loves God with all her being. A widow is also portrayed as a disciple who gives with a joyful heart, in imitation of Jesus who gives his very life for the sake of others. Simply said, the widow is praised for her boundless generosity and self-sacrifice.
Francis M. Balfour teaches us how to concretize this virtue of giving when he wrote:
The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.
Prayer: “Dearest lord, teach me to be generous; teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost” (Ignatius of Loyola
Somebody said that if you are in need of help seek it not from the rich but from the poor. Many of us have experiences in fund raising. We found out that most of the times poor people, in general, are far more generous than rich people. Well anyway, there is always an exception to the rule and exception always remains an exception. But like for example, the U.S. News and World Report, (December, 1991) said that personal income Americans gave to charity last 1990: poorest households was at 5.5% and wealthiest households was at 2.9%. And also the age group that gives the highest percent of income to charity was ages 65 to 74 at 4.4% and the lowest was ages 18 to 24 at 1.2%. I do not know if this data is true but it is a fact. Logically those who have more shall be giving more than those who have less. And yet what is happening is the opposite.
Today’s gospel presents to us a poor widow but with exceeding generosity because she gave all what she had, her whole livelihood for the temple treasury. And her poverty did not stop her from giving her share. Although her contribution was a tiny sum of money as compared to the contribution of the others but theirs were coming from their surplus wealth.
Why the widow is so poor? Luke 20:46-47, the gospel passage before today’s gospel, gives us the reason why the widow is so poor. It is because the Pharisees and the scribes ‘devour the houses of the widows!’ In other words, social oppression and injustice caused for the misery of the poor. No wonder that God is not pleased with the gifts of those who offer ‘from their surplus wealth’ which they took from the poor instead of sharing what they have with them.
Let us listen to two holy persons of all times, St. Augustine and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta that said something about wealth and giving or generosity: “Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure is, there is your heart; where your heart is, there is your happiness,” (St. Augustine) and “If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving,” (Blessed Mother Teresa).
God is not interested in how much we give, but in why we give. God does not look at the amount of the gift but at the spirit of the giver.
At the end let us reflect this story from an Unknown author. He said that a man had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. He could receive little company and was not to be excited. While in the hospital a rich uncle died and left him a million dollars. His family wondered how to break the news to him with the least amount of excitement. It was decided to ask the preacher if he would go and break the news quietly to the man. The preacher went and gradually led up to the question. The preacher asked the patient what he would do if he inherited a million dollars. The patient said, “I think I would give half of it to the church.” The preacher dropped dead.
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Someone told me, “If you’re in need of help seek it not from the rich but from the needy.” Pure rhetoric, I thought. Surely, it is more of an exception than a rule. Yet, there is some truth in saying so. The poor know what is to be poor. They understand what it is to be in great want.
Let’s take it from the tales of our elderly foreign missionaries. They attest to this fact that majority of those who generously contribute to their mission activities are people back in their home countries who are who are ordinary folks.
The poor widow in the gospel today exemplified the true spirit of love and generosity. She gave up everything she got. She knew for sure how it is to subsist on other people’s generosity. Yet this has not stopped her from giving her share.
Yes, we must never underestimate the poor’s capacity to give. To them also appropriately belong the line: “Kahit walang wala ka, kailangan mo pa ring tumulong.” (Fr. Nielo M. Cantilado, SVD Bible Diary 2002)
.This experience made me understand why Jesus was full of praise for the poor widow who offered what she actually could not afford. Jesus as so often is gain turning upside down the value system of the world. God is not interested in how much you give, but in why you give. God does not look at the amount of the gift, but at the spirit of the giver.
….If you open your Bible and read Luke 20:46-47, the verses before today’s gospel, we come to know why the widow is so poor. It is because of the Pharisees and the scribes, ‘who devour the houses of the widows!’ social oppression and injustice are the cause for the misery of the poor. No wonder that God is not pleased with the gifts of those who offer ‘out of their abundance which they took from the poor instead of sharing what they have with them.
And here another lesson; before we make big donations to the Church or to charities, let us ask ourselves whether we have done enough to alleviate the misery of the have-nots whom Christ is asking us to serve. (Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD Bible Diary 2004)
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James Dobson tells about a friend of his who was constantly irritated by his three-year old daughter. Fist, his friend saw her wastefully decorating a box with an expensive wrapping paper. Then on Christmas morning, his daughter presented to him the box which was empty. The father yelled at her, “Don’t you know, when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside of it?” Her daughter with tears said, “Daddy it’s not empty. I blew kisses in the box. I filled it with love, all for you, Daddy.” The father, chastised, reached for her daughter, hugged her and begged her for forgiveness.”
The widow in the gospel today did something similar. Her two coins could hardly buy a small plastic of mineral water, but she gave them away anyway. “She gave all she had to live on,” not considering where her next meal would come. Would Jesus who saw what the woman did leave her to die of hunger? Would the Creator of all things and the Lord of the universe be outdone in generosity and goodness? “Man does not live by bread alone” was live out by the widow in the gospel. For her God’s kingdom came first. Therefore the promise of Jesus was the woman’s reward, “All the other things will be given to you.”
Many of us give out of our abundance. We give away used clothing, used toys, used furniture, used shoes, etc. I personally give away extra things which I do not need, new and old. But I don’t feel heroic about it. I feel I should thank those who receive them, for helping me clean up my place.
On the other hand, when I go out of my comfort zone to visit the sick, poor families, to organize reluctant leaders of communities, join PPCRV….then it hurts. then I begin to realize what giving is all about according to the mind of Jesus. (Fr. Atilano Corcuera, SVD Bible Diary 2005)
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John D. Rockefeller, Sr. was strong and husky when small. Early on he was determined to earn money and drove himself to the limit. At age 33, he earned his first million dollars. At age 43, he controlled the biggest company in the world. At age 53, he was the richest man on earth and the world’s only billionaire.
Then he developed a sickness called “alopecia,” in which the hair of his head dropped off, his eyelashes and eyebrows disappeared and he shrunk like mummy. His weekly income was one million dollars but he digested only milk and crackers.
He was so hated in Pennsylvania that he had to have bodyguards day and night. He could not sleep, stopped smiling long since and enjoyed nothing in life. The doctors predicted he would not live over one year. The newspapers had gleefully written his obituary in advance just in case all of a sudden….
Those sleepless nights set him thinking. He realized with a new light that he “could not take one dime the next world.” Money was not everything. The next morning found him a new man. He began to help churches with his amassed wealth; the poor and needy were not overlooked. He established the Rockefeller Foundation whose funding of medical researches led to the discovery of penicillin and other wonder drugs.
John D. began to sleep well, eat and enjoy life. The doctors had predicted he would not live over 54. John D. Rockefeller, Sr. lived up to 98!
What do we do with our money? Jesus reminds us not to give out of surplus. Let the life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. be a constant reminder for all of us. He is right: we “could not take one dime the next world.”
Let the poor widow in the gospel, let’s give until it hurts. (Fr. Glenn Paul M. Gomez, SVD Bible Diary 2006)
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Remember last Christmas? Or are you thinking already of next Christmas, just one month from now? Christmas is always connected with gifts. We give and receive lots of gifts, but not all gifts are equal. We may be tempted to sneer at small gifts which don’t cost much and appreciate very much costly gifts. We recycle gifts for someone we do not appreciate so much and go through a lot of thinking and searching to find and buy a gift for someone very dear to us. Involved here is always the giver, the receiver, the gift.
As always, Jesus is a shocker who turns our world and our way of thinking upside down. The giver in today’s gospel is a poor widow, the gift is practically worthless and the receiver is the creator and ruler of the universe. We would expect that Jesus sneers at so small a gift to so great a receiver. But no! He praises the widow and finds her gift more precious that what others put into the collection box. Why?
Ha, there comes the kick! It is not the amount of the gift that counts but the spirit of the giver. That poor widow gave herself; she allowed herself to be given to Him who has everything. What had been given to her, small as it may be, she gave it all back.
We often complain about having not enough money, not enough of this and not enough of that. But we forget easily that what has been given to us is enough to give to Him who gave it to us. And we give it to Him by giving it to others.
Christmas 2007 – another chance to think differently about gifts, giver and receiver. (Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD Bible Diary 2007)
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GIVING. If the essence of Christianity is in loving, the essence of loving is in giving. Therefore if we cannot be Christians without loving, we cannot be Christians without giving. The lesson for today focuses on the widow’s mite as it is traditionally called.
Three lessons about giving. First, the widow gave quietly. Unlike the wealthy people in the temple, she gave quietly, without fanfare, without attracting any attention. That quiet giving has become so extraordinary because we are a people who love attention.
Second, the widow gave cheerfully. She gave cheerfully, without grumbling, without expecting any return, without complaining. She gave cheerfully without sighing and saying: “Now I am left with nothing.” She did not even attempt to dramatize. She gave quietly and she gave cheerfully.
The third adverb about the giving of the widow is that it was total. The poor person is not the one who gives nothing. The poor person is the one who keeps everything. That is not a blessed giving. It is not a blessed poverty when we keep everything. At the sunset of life, according to St. John of the Cross, we will be judged according to how much we love. It is not how much we give but how much we keep that will determine our generosity.
Today, the Lord will give us Himself as an example again. Today let us keep on giving quietly, silently without fanfare, cheerfully with a smile, without any grudge and totally, without counting the cost. (Bp Soc Villegas, Love Like Jesus, p. 81)
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Mahatma Gandhi once remarked: “There comes a time when an individual becomes irresistible and his action all-pervasive in its effect. This comes when he reduces himself to zero.” Bishop Desmond Tutu asserted that ‘in the kingdom of God, between the victimizer and the victimized, it is always the victimized that gets the better deal.” These quotations from two great men can be applied to the story of the poor widow.
Jesus praises the poor widow for her sincere and total trust in God, not for the sorry fact the religious establishment was taking advantage of it. He glorifies the poor widow who put into the Treasury of the Temple all she had to live on – her entire means of subsistence. If God gives us the grace of entering Paradise, everyone will be quite surprised to see who will be near God and who will not be there. What a reversal of fortune it will be! How many rich people will there be in Paradise!
To have money, a house, one or two cars, very lucrative employment, none of these are bad in themselves. It is above all one’s intention that counts. It is on this intention that we will be judged. It is the intention of the widow that Jesus glorified in the eyes of his disciples: the two small coins that the widow put into the Treasury were worth her entire life! But the mountain of gold and of the other givers was worth nothing. What can God do with our gold and silver? It is our heart which God wants for Himself! Even if we have nothing, neither gold nor silver, there is still one thing that we can give to God, the only thing which has value in his eyes: our love!
Fr. Daniel Meynen, a canon law expert, rightly suggests the following: ‘Even if a priest, a religious brother or sister, a bishop, even were he, the Bishop of Rome, had nothing to give, neither gold nor silver, the most important thing would be for him to give himself with faith and love! Let us call to mind Peter, the first pope, who had neither gold nor silver but who did not hesitate to perform a healing in the name of Jesus, even at the risk of his own life. ‘I have no silver and gold but I give you what I have; In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk,” (Acts 3:3-6). (Fr. Deva Savariyappan, SVD Bible Diary 2008)
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Imagine showing up weekend and instead of putting money in the collection plate, you take home a crisp $100 bill. You can spend it, however, you want. There is just one catch: the preacher tells you that this money – like all your earthly possessions – is a gift from God. In 2005, fifteen churches in Nashville, Tenn. randomly distributed $50,000 given by an anonymous donor for acts of kindness. In 1ll, 500 people received $100 bills, each with the same instruction: “use the money in the name of Jesus. Oh, and don’t take anything in return or accept any credit.” The project seemed to inspire the recipients to help their friends and those in need. While there was no guarantee the money was used for noble purposes, one pastor said, “We are far less concerned about a $100 bill being misused than in creating an opportunity for a lot more to be used appropriately.”
Let us turn to the widows offering. Imagine the scene again. Jesus sitting there at the temple treasury, studying people’s giving habits! He sat there watching “wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury.” You would think that Jesus would be impressed with that kind of generosity. He was not. But then someone caught His attention. A poor widow we are told. (Without a husband representing her, a widow had the most vulnerable status within society. She was defenseless and often impoverished). She put in two small coins. What were the worth? Around one sixty-fourth (1/64th) of a denarius (a denarius was equal to one day’s working wage). It was a mere pittance, compared to the gifts of the rich donors who visited the treasury on that day. But unlike them her gift was radical and sacrificial. She was giving her substance and not from her excess.
The difference between giving from your excess and your substance is best explained by a small story about a chicken and a pig who wanted to do something special for the farmer. The pig was none too happy when the chicken came up with the idea of making him breakfast. Eggs and bacon, the chicken giving from her excess but the pig had to give from his substance. No doubt the widow’s generosity is praiseworthy and her willingness to give out of her extreme poverty challenges every tight-fisted Christian today. The final question we should ask ourselves, as Christians in the affluent western world is, “Do we really understand the heartbeat of God towards the poor, the vulnerable and those who cannot fend for themselves like this widow? (Fr. Felix Ferrer, SVD Bible Diary 2009)
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Which is better: to share a little of what one has, with a great heart, or to share much from what one has in abundance, with an “ordinary” or casual heart? I believe many of us will easily pick out the first choice! However, which is better for our community: little giving or much giving….regardless of the heart factor? If we are honest with our answer, we will say we prefer much giving! So, the issue about giving is quite tricky, isn’t it?
The short gospel story about Jesus being amused by people making their offerings to the temple treasury, which led to Jesus’ praise about the giving of the widow, is not simply a naïve teaching about “sharing a little with a great heart.” There is more to it:
The poor and the simple are “more generous” in spirit. The rich and the sophisticated often have so many pretensions. They give after much rationalization. They tend to justify the amount of their giving. They tend to make alibis why they ought only to give this or that much to someone or to a cause. The poor give simply based on what they have, and on what have genuinely in their heart. Their poverty and their simplicity make them give not out of rationalization, but out of genuinely empathy.
Real giving is giving that comes from fasting. The widow’s copper coin offerings were meritorious, not because they were little offerings coming from a great heart. Jesus said: the widow gave out of what she had to live on. She was giving what she was sacrificing. She was giving out of what she was denying herself with. In biblical parlance, we note that these two always go together as a diptych: almsgiving and fasting. God-like giving is not simply giving with a heart. It is giving out of what you have fasted on. So, it matters not whether the giving is big or small. The greater question is: does mu giving hurt me? If it is giving without hurt, it is not giving from self, it is not a giving with love. Jesus on the cross gave out of love, and his love for us hurt Him. (Fr. Domie Guzman SPP New Every Morning New Everyday 2006 pp. 337-338)
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Luke 21:2 he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites
Alexander B. Morrison
“Among the long lines of contributors was a poor widow, who cast into the treasure chest all that she had, two small bronze coins, known as mites. Taken together they amounted to less than half a cent in American money. Noting the disparity between what she gave and the much greater contributions of some others, Jesus proclaimed, ‘Of a truth … , this poor widow hath cast in more than they all.’ Though the rich had given from their abundance, ‘she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had’ (Luke 21:1–4). Jesus knew it is not the amount we give that matters. In the arithmetic of heaven, value is determined not by quantity but by quality. It is the intent of the willing heart and mind that is acceptable to God (see 2 Cor. 8:12).” (“For This Cause Came I into the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 26-27)
This poor widow put in more than all the rest. I believe that as a priest I have offered my life for the Gospel. I do things for people—preach, minister to them, sit down with them. This may all be true.
But sometimes, when I look back at my life, now that I am almost 25 years in the ministry, I have found the opposite truer. People minister to me. They sit down for me. They preach to me. They help me live a very comfortable and wonderful life. They talk to me about their God and help me live my life. What I give may just be a cent’s worth. What they offer me is their faith, their life, and their love.
I have been blessed much. And I need to give much. Money and material things are just excuses for the real giving. The real gifts are those that come from the heart: time, care, compassion, faith, trust. The poor widow gives God not two small coins but her all, her life. God expects nothing less. Real giving, they say, starts when it no longer hurts because giving now comes naturally from us.
Plan and work out a community service with your kids.