FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
WHAT TWO WIDOWS CAN TEACH US
November 11, 2012
1 Kings 17:10-16
God loves the poor. Jesus’ mission is to the poor (Lk 4:18). In the mission of Christians they are to be mindful of the poor (Gal 2:10). We today speak of a preferential option for the poor. In CFC-FFL this is one of our Core Values.
Today God reminds us of what He does for the poor. God “secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free; the Lord gives sight to the blind. The Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord protects the stranger, sustains the orphan and the widow” (Ps 146:7-9).
Christians are supposed to love, help and serve the poor, in accordance with God’s will. Now often we think in terms of those with resources helping those with scant or even without resources. This is not the case with two wonderful widows we read about today.
In ancient Israel, widows were generally a sorry lot. They had no work, no resources, and were even shunned from society. Together with orphans, they were at the bottom of the social ladder. They usually managed to exist only through alms.
This is why today’s stories of the two widows are extraordinary. There is the widow at Zarephath and the poor widow at the temple.
Both widows exhibited self-sacrificial generosity at tremendous cost to themselves. The first widow had a handful of flour and a little oil, just enough for a small meal for her and her son, before they expected to die (1 Kgs 17:12). She gave that up for the prophet Elijah. The second widow had two small coins worth a few cents, which was all she had, her whole livelihood (Mk 12:42,44c). She put that in the temple treasury. Both made the sacrifice to honor God. The first widow honored the request of God’s prophet. The second widow returned everything she had to God for His use.
Now here is the wonderful thing. Both were tremendously blessed! Elijah prophesied that the widow’s jar of flour would not go empty nor the jug of oil run dry till the rainy season came (when they could plant and harvest wheat), and she and her son were able to eat for a year (1 Kgs 17:14-16). The other widow Jesus himself commended, even making her as an example to his disciples (Mk 12:43).
What can we learn?
One, no one is too poor to give. The two widows remove the excuses of people who do not give to the poor or back to God because of their own need. “I need this for my family.” Well, the first widow needed it for her son. “I need this for my personal needs.” Well, the second widow went hungry that day. “I need this to beef up my business or investment for the future.” Well, the first widow and her son had no future and were just waiting to die, while the second widow gave her whole livelihood. We can see that the poor can give the rich a lesson or two.
Two, God measures what we give not by the amount, but by what we give up for ourselves. If we put this mathematically, the “rich people put in large sums” (Mk 12:41b) but they “all contributed from their surplus wealth” (Mk 12:44a). They probably put in much less than 1% of their wealth, and what they gave they did not even feel. On the other hand, the poor widow gave everything she had, “from her poverty” (Mk 12:44b). She gave 100% such that she went hungry that day. Talking of percentages, the guideline for giving back to God is a tithe, that is, 10%. But if that does not hurt, then we are probably not giving enough.
Three, if we honor God, then God will provide for our needs. The first widow was looking to a last meal; she and her son feasted for a year. In fact, God is never outdone in generosity. God gives back more than we can ever give to Him. The second widow, being what she was in society, being in the presence of the rich well-dressed people, was bold but probably ashamed in approaching the treasury, but Jesus extolled her and held her up as an example, certainly to be emulated. Imagine, “this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.” (Mk 12:43b). Wow! God counts in a very different way.
So four, “do not be afraid” (1 Kgs 17:13a) to give. God will honor our generosity. And God will provide, and provide abundantly.
Next time you put some money in the collection basket at the parish, or next time you write a check for your financial contribution to CFC-FFL, be mindful of all the above. And know this: Jesus “(sits) down opposite the treasury and (observes) how the crowd put(s) money into the treasury.” (Mk 12:41).
May you win God’s favor and approval.
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For group discussion in the household:
(1) What are my excuses for not giving a tithe (10%) to God, through my parish and CFC-FFL?
(2) If you are led to, make a commitment to the brethren to improve your financial giving, and to give regularly (to the parish every week or at every Mass; to the community every month).