Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” — Mark 12:43-44
We are called to give. To those who are less fortunate. To those who experience great challenge. To those who are vulnerable, are in pain, and who live without hope. Recognizing that some of us showcase our suffering in an obvious and easily discernible manner while others of us carry burdens that are unseen, we are called to give to each other. This giving includes love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness. Jesus said it better when he offered what we now refer to as the Beatitudes, a code of living, a blueprint for salvation, a summation of his greatest lessons of all. These phrases tell us of the importance of giving. Yes, we are called to give.
Mother Teresa, in her exceptional book No Greater Love, outlines a number of stories that illuminate her own view on this topic. In one, she describes a family of eight that was so poor, so unable to secure food, that they were in a terrible physical and emotional condition. Mother Teresa was informed of this family and so took some rice to them. Upon giving the food to the mother, she immediately noticed that she divided it in two and placed half into another container. When questioned, the mother informed the future saint that her neighbors were also starving and, so, she was going to offer half of the food to them. Per Mother Theresa, this is true giving.
Further, she notes that: “I also don’t want you to give me what you have left over. I want you to give from your want until you really feel it!” She describes this as “giving from our abundance” vs. “giving from our want”. I recall hearing a story about an attorney who visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta and who was prepared to make a sizable financial contribution to her efforts. When Mother Teresa greeted him, she immediately asked him to take some towels to a room and to clean off a young, highly physically deformed girl who had just soiled herself. This man talked about standing in a darkened, smelly room, wearing a fine and expensive business suit, and cleaning off a child who had been left to die on the street. He eventually came to realize that this small gift was worth so much more than any monetary donation he could have provided.
There is, of course, giving. And then there is truly giving, as in the Mother Teresa sense. As I reflect upon the seemingly simple words and ideas of this woman, I can’t help but ponder the deeper and more complicated truths they contain. Truths that Jesus understood and which he described in the parable of the poor widow who gave from her want, not out of her abundance. My overwhelming feeling as I consider this is that this is a great challenge and a difficult message. But it is an important one. It is one worth personally considering.
Are you a giving person?
If so, do you give from your abundance? Or from your want?
How can you be more like the poor widow in Jesus’ parable or the mother in Mother Teresa’s story?
There’s giving… and then there’s truly giving.