Revelation 14:1-3, 4b-5
I admit that today’s gospel story of the widow’s offering of two small coins is a real challenge for a fundraiser like me. We always say that every gift counts and we are grateful for gifts of every amount. And we mean it. But, the fact is those larger gifts do matter and help enormously in meeting urgent and important needs.
But today’s story is not about the coins. It’s about the heart.
The professional journal, Chronicle of Philanthropy consistently reports that higher income families share with charities a smaller percent of their household income than do lower and middle income families. And those families with deep religious traditions give even more. The reason why those of more modest means are proportionally more generous keeps researchers busy studying complex social and economic factors. Perhaps it’s not all that complex.
Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand another person’s situation, feelings, and motives. Maybe I was the one without a job or who lost a child to disease. Maybe I was the one homeless for a time or cared for when sick. Maybe I was the one who received a need-based scholarship or witnessed during a service trip the suffering brought on by persistent poverty. For whatever reason, my heart was vulnerable and I am moved to give.
Maybe I give because I am grateful others helped me at some point in my life. Maybe I give because I want to make the world a better place for someone else. Maybe I give because I feel so blessed to have so much when so many have so little. All I know is that I need to do something to help. I need to share not only my coins, but my heart as well.
When Jesus sees the widow "giving from her poverty," as compared to those who gave from their surplus, he was not counting the coins. He was looking into their hearts and into what motivates them in this life as a lesson to us about being in right relation with God and with the gifts we have been given. In the very next chapter in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus begins his final journey to the Cross where he will give to us everything he is. He gives us his unconditional love. No holding back. Everything, just like the widow.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and is the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.