Every time I hear this Gospel story my shoulders droop a little and the wind gets knocked out of my sails a bit. Upon hearing it, I’m always inspired to give a little more…but not from my surplus. Each time I hear this reading I recognize a new shoot of selfishness sprouting up in my heart and I don’t like the way that feels. Sometimes hearing God’s word is like looking in a mirror and the reflection isn’t always pleasant. The Gospel talks about coins or money, but when I ponder this reading I think of giving in much broader terms than money. I think about my time, my talents and my attitude.
The widow gave with complete trust! What an example for us all. I’m pretty good at half-trusting or maybe on a good day two-thirds trusting and if life is going along smoothly I might even dive into three-quarter trusting for a day or two but then satan and his seeds of doubt start to enter the picture and everything changes. That little widow gave EVERYTHING she had knowing she would die of hunger, or feast on the love of the God she trusted…either would have been fine with her! Holy Cow…I’d like to learn to do that! I’ve been thinking about this reading for a couple of weeks and the Holy Spirit has sent me several thoughts I’d like to share.
This is the time of year we are aware of charitable giving. We drop coins in the bell ringer’s bucket, take tags off the giving tree and we donate food to the food bank. I remember when the kids were little; they picked all the things from the pantry they didn’t like to eat to give to the food bank. They weren’t too happy when I made them pick one of their favorite foods or snacks to give away. I got one of those “see here” lessons one year when one of the boys took the last container of coffee to the collection basket. Given my enormous LOVE of coffee; that felt a little like the widow’s gift but I think the Gospel invites us to look deeper and wider than holiday generosity.
What if we took a chunk of our summer vacation spending and used it to buy amusement park tickets for a struggling family who could use a break? What if we downsized or gave up our family birthday gift budget and sponsored a birthday party at a local homeless shelter or orphanage? What if we spent a week of summer vacation helping habitat for humanity instead of renting a cottage on the lake? They seem like big ideas I know but are they bigger than handing over your last two coins? When we think of giving from our means instead of from our surplus, the possibilities could be amazing and life changing not only for the receiver of our generosity but for the giver as well.
For some reason I kept thinking about the gift of our attitude. I’ll be honest,
sometimes my attitude gives a “gift” I don’t intend. As we enter the Christmas season our heart and our faith tell us it’s a season of wonder and joy and preparation for Jesus, the greatest gift ever received. Unfortunately the chaos of the season brings stress, hectic schedules, impatience and too much attention on material things. All of that craziness can leave our attitude a bit soggy but what if we decided to give the gift of a pleasant smile or a cheerful hello to ten people each time we were out and about this December? What if we gave up our spot in line two or three times a week, that would be a gift of cheerfulness and of our time and patience…some days we only have a few of those “coins” left. What if we called someone who was struggling with something in their life; relationships, sickness, financial stress you name it and we gave them the gift of a cup of coffee and an hour of conversation focused not on giving advice and “fixing” but simply on compassion and love. Those were precisely the motives that encouraged the widow to give her gift.
I also thought a lot about giving things that really don’t cost anything at all. There are always people who need our help, our patience, our ears and our hands. Time is a precious commodity and sometimes we are stingier with it than we are with our money. I wonder what would happen if we would give up a night at the movies or out with friends and spend it visiting with a lonely elderly person. I wonder what would happen if we volunteered to help at a nursing home or soup kitchen instead of going out for dinner or sitting on our cozy couch resting. Jesus praised the efforts of the poor widow not because of the value of her gift but because of the value of her humility, trust and generosity. So; which coins are you going to give?
A Seed To Plant: Pick one or two of the ideas from this post and just do it! I guarantee Jesus will be pleased and we will be blessed.
Blessings on your day!