Giving of the Little We Have
What is the difference between giving “out of abundance” and giving “out of poverty?” The two widows we meet in the readings this week both give out of their poverty. When asked, the widow gives away the flour and oil needed for her next meal, one to be shared with her son. She gives what she would ordinarily need for her and her son’s sustenance. And she discovers that her jar of flour never goes empty.
Many years ago when I first traveled to Mexico to meet the family of one of our CDP Sisters, I experienced poverty that I had never known before. Dirt floors in the house, having to bring water from a distance, no indoor plumbing of any sort. We visited for a while and before we left, the family sent us home with the two eggs that were on the counter and some tortillas. As far as we could see, that was all they had. We didn’t want to take it. But we were reminded that this is hospitality and it would be rude for us to not accept the gift. They gave “out of their poverty.”
I admit that I have felt the tug of giving from my poverty, from my limited resources. When I was doing graduate studies, I lived with a community of Sisters who struggled to cover all the household chores needing to be done. I would help, of course. And because I was more able-bodied than most, I was often asked to do more, especially when someone was sick or absent. I struggled to give away my precious time, needed for my studies. What I discovered, however, was that after giving away my limited time, I returned to my studies and suddenly I was inspired in my writing and could finish reading more quickly. All I needed was faith that it could get done?
In the Gospel reading, we meet another widow. Jesus observes the rich who proudly contribute lots to the treasury. And then he sees the widow add her two coins, all that she has, also needed for her livelihood. In Jesus’ time, widows were among the marginalized, the ones living on the periphery. Jesus notices and Jesus cares. He declares that she has given more than anyone because she gave from her poverty.
How do you rate your own capacity to give? When do you give “out of abundance” and when do you give “out of poverty?”
How do you rate your ability to give?