Reading: Luke 21.1-4
Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’
We all like to think of ourselves as being generous. We like people to see us as generous of spirit as well as generous with our worldly goods. But … the question we are being asked to consider today is whether we even know what generosity is?
In the few verses preceding today’s reading Jesus denounces the motivations and the actions of the scribes. The scribes, those men of letters, were the expert lawyers of the Jewish tradition; they were the acknowledged and respected teachers of the law, both in the schools and in the courts. And yet, despite all that expertise and respect, the scribes were denounced by Jesus. The basis for that denunciation was their lack of generosity.
Jesus had seen the scribes in action. Jesus knew that they liked to dress up in fine clothes; to demand the respect and admiration of those they deemed inferior to themselves; to sound impressive with their verbose, yet meaningless, prayers; to exploit those weaker and poorer than themselves. We should not be surprised that Jesus told his disciples to: Beware of the scribes.
Then comes today’s reading: the story of the widow’s offering. These few verses tell a story that challenges us all to reconsider our supposed generosity. Jesus speaks of the rich who give little, contrasting them with the poor widow who gave all she had to live on. It is a sad fact that most of us give only when we have first assured our own comfort and security. Furthermore, as our worldly wealth grows our generosity diminishes. We become increasingly avaricious, even to the point of being hard-hearted and uncaring to those who are most needy.
Today we are being invited to change our priorities, our very way of thinking. Instead of giving what is left, of both ourselves and our possessions, Jesus is urging us to give in a spirit of true generosity, and without hesitation.
Let us pray that this most challenging of messages might touch our hearts and draw us closer to God as we share his love with others by sharing the overflowing bounty he has shared with us.