Saint Paul tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). This is because God Himself is a cheerful giver. Everything we have is a gift of God not just our possessions but our very life comes from Him. He gladly provides for all our needs because He loves us. Those who know God and have an intimate relationship with Him are also generous. They see the good things they have not as possessions to be guarded jealously, but, as blessings to be shared with others. Are you such a person? The widow in today’s readings was such a person.
There are many ways that we are called to give to others with many different levels of giving. Each level reveals just how generous we are.
There is giving that comes from our surplus wealth. It is money we have left over once we have paid our bills and bought all the things we want. Most people have no problem giving this “spare change” away if they see a panhandler on the side of the road. They might even put it in the collection basket at Mass, but, in the end, it is only “leftovers”. It doesn’t change the life of the person who is giving it. While every little bit helps and even small amounts given in love can make a world of difference to a poor person, this type of donation is made with little effort on the part of most people.
Another level of giving is a gift from one’s substance. It is a donation that requires a sacrifice. It is the kind of contribution someone makes when they hear another person’s witness, and it touches their heart. They can’t just turn their back on them and do nothing. Even if it means putting off a purchase, they give whatever they can. This is the level of giving the widow in our first reading exhibited when she baked her last bread for Elijah. She was willing to go without so that another could be blessed. Such a level of sacrificial giving changes the life not only of the person who receives it, but, the person who gives it. This is the level of giving that pleases God.
How we choose to spend our money reveals a lot about what is important to us. Do we spend our money indulging ourselves with pleasures? Do we hoard our money? Do we spend our money on homes in prestigious neighborhoods and drive luxury vehicles? All those things are not bad in themselves; but if those possessions mean more to us than our own wellbeing or the wellbeing of the people around us, then they will lead to our ruin.
If, on the other hand, we are generous with our money, if we give freely and cheerfully to others, if we are willing to make sacrifices out of love for others, we will become more generous and loving people, and we can expect to be blessed in return. We will discover what is most important in life to measure our worth not in dollars and cents but in the people whose lives we touch. We will come to value ourselves not for what we have but for who we are and we will find joy not in enriching ourselves, but, in enriching others.
“If God has blessed you financially, then raise your standard of giving not your standard of living.” That is what God is calling us to to give without counting the cost. He showed us the way by giving His very self on the cross so that we could share in His eternal life. At this table He offers Himself to us in Holy Communion. Now, He calls us to do the same, so that everyone we come into contact with can share the blessings of the God who loves us and provides for us.
Deacon Frank Iovine