1 Kings 17:10-16; Heb 9:24-28; Mk 12:38-44
In the temple of Jerusalem there were thirteen collecting boxes. They were for the contributions for the sacrifices and daily expenses of the temple. Many people threw in quite considerable contributions. Then came a widow. She flung in two mites. It was the smallest coin. Yet Jesus said her tiny contribution was greater than all the others for the others had thrown in what they could spare, and the widow had flung in everything she had.
With this Jesus has taught his disciples a lesson in giving. First of all, real giving must be sacrificial.
In the city of Philadelphia there stands the Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300, and Temple University, where hundreds of students are trained. Next to that is the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday School building which houses hundreds of Sunday scholars, so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside at Sunday school time. In one of the rooms of this building may be seen the picture of the sweet face of a little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history.
A sobbing little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it 'was too crowded'. "I can't go to Sunday School," she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday School class. The child was so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus.
Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings and the parents called for the kind-hearted pastor, who had befriended their daughter, to handle the final arrangements. As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside was found 57 cents and a note scribble in childish handwriting which read, "This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school."
For two years she had saved for this offering of love. Carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook to the pulpit, the Pastor told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. It moved the Church members. They made large subscriptions. Checks came from far and wide. Within five years the little girl's gift had increased to $250,000.00 a huge sum. Her unselfish love had paid large dividends.
It is not the amount of gift, but what matters is the sacrifice behind it. Few people will show willingness to give up their comforts for giving contribution for a good cause. For us charity is to take out what is not necessary immediately. But the church teaches us today that charity should carry a tint of sacrifice with it. The woman of the first reading had to make sacrifice to feed Elijah. The poor woman in the Gospel had to give up everything that she had saved for the day's expense. So their offerings became precious in the sight of God.
Secondly, real giving is reckless, and symbolic of love. The woman could have given one coin and kept the other for herself. She could have kept both for herself. But she decided to give everything she had, and she did so. She did not want to come away from the house of the lord without offering anything.
Some time ago, a father punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight, and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the tree.
Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, "This is for you, Daddy." He was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found that the box was empty.
He yelled at her, "Don't you know that when you give someone a present, there's supposed to be something inside of it?"
The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, "Oh, Daddy, it's not empty. I blew kisses into the box. All for you, Daddy."
The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged her forgiveness. He kept the gold box by his bed for years. Whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.
We require total surrender to do such a giving. The tragedy of our lives is that often we hold some part of us. There are many barriers that block our total surrender to God: fear, pride, selfishness and confusion.
It is time that we examined ourselves, and practice our charity with an element of love and sacrifice.