Our Jugs of Oil Will Never Run Dry!
- Nancy was a single mother with young children. Her ex-husband sent her only a small amount of grocery money every week–so small it couldn’t even feed 1 person, much less her family of 4. But Nancy decided to begin giving to God from her little bit of grocery money and trust him to provide. Shortly after, she got a job with a cookbook company. The company paid Nancy to go grocery shopping and prepare meals so they could take photographs for their cookbooks. When they were done taking pictures, Nancy could keep the food she had purchased and prepared. Isn’t that an amazing story of God’s goodness? Nancy learned that even if you’re poor, you still need to learn to give from whatever you have.
- Rev Fr. Alban, While ministering in Africa, met a Christian worker who raised his 6 children on $10 a month. He told him the story of how children in his village were going blind because of a disease that could be prevented with medicine that only cost 50 cents. He began to pray and ask God to send a rich person to their village to help give the money for the medicine, but no one ever came. As he kept praying, the Lord told him he should give the money to buy the medicine. But with 6 children and only a $10 a month salary, he couldn’t see how he could do this. But he and his family prayed and decided that every month they would buy the medicine to help one child. When Fr. Alban last spoke with him, he’d been doing this for 7 years and had saved 84 children from going blind. And his family saw God meet all of their needs
- A friend e-mailed about his 89-year-old mother. She had called him on the phone to confess she hadn’t been tithing because she was on a fixed income–but she’d decided that she was going to start faithfully tithing again. Within a few days, she got a call from her pastor asking her to go on a church prayer retreat with all the expenses paid by the church. The next day, she went to her bank to get some money and the bank teller told her, “Don’t withdraw any money, since your 90th birthday is coming up, our bank is going to give you a present of $1000 in cash!” The following day, she got a letter from a community group to let her know she had been chosen to receive a $5000 grant to help pay her utility bills. After she began tithing again, she was amazed at the unexpected provisions she received from the LORD.
Sometimes we need to look at the world through different eyes. The poor give us this chance. Instead of looking at the rich and famous, we look at those less fortunate.
But the poor give us another chance to look at the world in a new way. Instead of looking down in pity, they give us to chance to look at a world where material goods are not as important, where sharing one’s daily bread is a norm, not an exception. The story of the poor widow’s offering gives us this opportunity. And it provides the challenge to shake off any pretense money and comfort may bring.
In today’s First reading, a widow of Sidon, shares her very last morsel with prophet Elijah and God amply rewards her generosity.
The Second Reading reveals the self-offering of Jesus that destroyed the sins of the world. When we unite ourselves to Jesus in his sacrifice, our sins are forgiven and we await his return to be rewarded.
Gospel: MK 12: 38-44
When I was preparing my message for today, I came across a story about a little boy who went to church one Sunday morning to get out of the cold. He had been trying to sell newspapers, but no one had passed by. He entered the church, hoping to pass an hour unnoticed in the back row. The minister delivered a powerful sermon about Jesus and his love for us. At one point during the service, they took an offering. One of the ushers stopped right in front of the boy and held out the offering plate. After a long pause, the boy asked the usher to put the plate on the floor. Then the little boy did something unusual. He stepped into the offering plate, first one foot and then the other. He slowly looked up and with tears streaming down his cheeks said, “Mister, I don’t have any money. I haven’t sold a single newspaper today, but if Jesus did all that the minister said he did just for me, I will gladly give my life to Him”.
The story of Ruth and Naomi and the Parable of the Widow’s Mite provide some very interesting contrasts between the Christian’s way and society’s way. Both are stories of how God uses the culture of Jesus’ time to do his will in our society and teach us how we are supposed to care for each other.
In Old Testament times, the Law of Moses stated that the poor, orphans and widows were to be cared for, but in most cases the care that was provided was the bare minimum that was required. For example, farmers who grew grain were to leave the grain in the rows at the edges of their fields for the widows and orphans, but that was it. The farmers did not have to take the grain to the widows, nor did they have to bring the poor to their fields so they could pick the grain.
That was what Ruth and Naomi were doing in the field. They were picking the grain that was left for widows such as Naomi. Jesus later used another widow to fulfill his purpose-namely, to teach us the value of giving to God’s work. The Parable of the Widow’s Mite took place in Jerusalem during the week before Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus taught his disciples to beware of those who act pious and holy on the outside but who are evil and corrupt on the inside. He used the example of the scribes. They also used crooked schemes to force widows out of their own homes.
Even today, those in power sometimes lose compassion and take advantage of others, including widows, orphans and the poor. They do not have a heart to love and serve God. In fact, they often stand between us and God. In contrast, both widows revealed faith in a caring God. He will not overlook them, and he does not overlook us. The widows encourage us to hold on to our faith in a God who will not disappoint us.
Jesus always championed social justice, which means caring for the less fortunate in society. He and the disciples were sitting in the area of the temple treasury. The treasury contained thirteen trumpet-shaped chests where people could deposit their gifts and the temple tax. Jesus could see how much money people gave. He could see the large sums of money that the scribes and the wealthy gave, and he could also see how much the widow gave. He used a comparison of the gifts to illustrate their significance.
The wealthy gave out of their abundance. That is, they gave out of what they had left after they paid their bills and purchased the necessities of life, including food. In contrast, the poor widow gave all that she had. By putting all of her money into the temple treasury, the widow probably had to go without food for at least one meal. In Jesus’ eyes, she gave more than all the rich people simply because she gave everything to God.
Many large donations are given at least in part because of the public relations value. Jesus doesn’t condemn large gifts from wealthy people, but he does say that the effect of the widow’s small donation is even bigger than any large donation because she gave out of what she had. She put God first and she is a good example for us to follow. We must always put God first.
God gives us resources to use, including money. In return, we have to manage these resources in God’s best interests-including caring for the poor. Love and giving describe our lifestyles and what we were made for. Life is meant to be lived outward to the world, not inward to ourselves. God has hardwired us for generosity. When we live generously, it shows in our faces and in our lives. People in the health care profession are a good example. They show genuine care and compassion for their patients. They are not in the profession just for show. They are in the profession because they care.
God measures giving not by what we give, but by what we keep for ourselves. He measures the gift by the sacrifice involved. That is why Jesus valued the widow’s gift. She sacrificed her well-being in order to show her love for God-just like Jesus showed his love for us by dying on the cross to save us.
“You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” — John Bunyan
There are very few people who don’t like the idea of generosity. We are indeed a species that loves to help others and confront needs when we see them. Unfortunately, there are also very few people who are content with the level of generosity in their lives. Most people I know wish they were able to give more. And while there are a number of reasons that this may be the case… sometimes the best solution may be the simplest.
10 Simple Ways to Become a More Generous Person like the Widow
1. Consider the benefits of generosity. Generous people report being happier, healthier, and more satisfied with life than those who don’t give. Generosity produces within us a sense that we are capable of making a difference in the world, that we are actively addressing the needs of those around us, and that we are shaping our community into a healthier one. While generosity is typically seen as the opposite of self-serving, counting the personal benefits is indeed one of the most important steps that we can take in getting started.
2. Embrace gratitude. Make a list of the things in your life for which you are grateful. Your list doesn’t have to be long. It won’t take much time. It doesn’t even have to be a physical list (in your head will be completely sufficient). Sometimes, the most important step you can take to become more generous is to spend more time thinking about what you already possess and less time thinking about what you don’t. Once you start intentionally thinking that way, you may be surprised just how good you already have it… and become more apt to share your life with others.
3. Start really small. If you’ve never given away money, start by giving away $1/ 1kd/1BD. If you are embarrassed to give just $1/1KD/1BD, don’t be. You’ve got nothing to worry about: there are plenty of charities online that allow you to give with your credit card and you’ll never cross paths with the people who record your $1 donation. The point is to get started. If you’ll feel more comfortable giving $5, $10, or $20, start there. But no matter what dollar/ KD OR BD amount you choose, jump right in with something small. You can afford it… and that little push can help build momentum in your life towards generosity.
4. Give first. When you receive your next paycheck, make your first expense an act of giving. Often times, we wait to see how much we have left over before we determine how much we can give away. The problem is that most of the time after we start spending, there is nothing left over. The habit of spending all of it is too deeply ingrained in our lives. To counteract that cycle, give first. Every payday, write a check for $10 to your local homeless shelter. You just may be surprised how you won’t even miss it.
5. Divert one specific expense. For a set period of time (try 29 days), divert one specific expense to a charity of your choosing. You may choose to bring a lunch to work, ride your bike to work once/week, or give up Starbucks on Mondays (wait, make that Thursday). Calculate the money you’ll save and then redirect it to a specific charity/cause. Whatever you choose, I recommend picking something that would be fun to give up – something unique that you’ll remember. And setting a specific period of time for the experiment should make it completely achievable. Courtney Carver gave away an extra $225 in one month just giving up Starbucks.
6. Fund a cause based on your passions. There are countless charities/causes that need your support. And some of them are directly in-line with your most compelling passions. What are you most passionate about? Is it the environment, poverty, or religion? Maybe it’s world peace, child nutrition, or animal rights? What about education, civil rights, or clean water? Identify what passions already move you, find a committed organization around that cause, and then joyfully help them in their work.
7. Find a person you believe in. If you find that you are more easily motivated and shaped by the people in your life rather than organizations/causes, use that tendency as motivation instead. Take careful notice of the people in your life that you most admire. What organizations/causes do they hold most dear? Who do they support? What makes them passionate about supporting it? And how can you get involved alongside them?
8. Spend time with people in need. One of the most effective antidotes for non-generosity is to make space in your life for those who actually need your help. After all, it is a very small step to go from knowing somebody in need to helping somebody in need. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to volunteer one meal at your local homeless shelter. Most homeless shelters readily accept volunteers and have systems in place to get you started. And rubbing shoulders with the poor just may change your impression of them forever.
9. Spend time with a generous person. One of the most life-changing conversations I’ve ever had about generosity occurred when I found the courage to start asking specific questions of the right person. I remember starting with, “Have you always been generous?” And immediately followed with more: “When did you become so generous? How did it start? How do you decide where your money goes? What advice would you give someone who wants to get started?” It was life-changing. And the other guy paid for the meal… go figure.
10. Live a more minimalist life. Intentionally decide to own less. Oh sure, living a minimalist life won’t automatically make you a more generous person, but it will provide the space necessary to make it possible. You’ll spend less money on things at the department store. You’ll have more time/energy to help others. And the intentionality that emerges in your life will help you discover the need for generosity. Minimalism has resulted in many positive changes in my life – becoming more generous has been one of the most important.
Someone once said that there are three types of givers in life. One type is a flint, another is a sponge, and the third is a honeycomb. To get anything out of the flint, it must be hammered; even then, all that results are chips and sparks. To get anything out of the sponge, it must be continually squeezed and put under pressure. Finally, there is the honeycomb, just overflowing with its own sweetness.
We can apply this analogy to our hearts. Sometimes, like the flint, God needs to work in our hearts in a difficult way in order for us to receive his goodness and then give it out. Sometimes, like a sponge, God needs to squeeze us and put pressure on us to bring forth any life from our hearts. Other times, like the honeycomb, we come to understand the goodness and grace of God, and love for other people overflows from our full hearts.
Generosity rarely happens by chance. Instead, it is an intentional decision that we make in our lives. But it does not need to be as difficult as many people think. Sometimes, starting with the simple steps is the best step that we can take.
IT IS NOT HOW MUCH YOU GIVE BUT HOW MUCH
LOVE YOU PUT IN GIVING – MOTHER TERESA
Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.