True charity is given humbly and in the spirit of love, as Jesus shows us in Luke 21:1-4.
When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people
putting their offerings into the treasury
and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, “I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”
This story stirs with reverberations from the young man of wealth whom Jesus told to sell off his wealth and give to the poor. Then, Jesus told him, he would attain the Kingdom of God. In this instance, it is a poor woman who has no wealth, yet she gives what little she has in offerings. Who has made the greater sacrifice, we ponder, the wealthy who give of their surplus or the poor woman who gave all that she had?
In a similar way, it addresses the concept of charity.
We should never judge another’s charity or apparent lack thereof. But in this story, Jesus also teaches us about the purity of heart versus the appearance of public display.
Not so long ago, there was a big debate on who gave more to charity, conservatives or liberals. The deciding factor, said conservatives, was how much was declared in income taxes. And, of course, records suggested that conservatives declared more donations in their income taxes. Liberals responded that it didn’t account for various other acts of charity that can’t be declared on an income tax form or those who don’t list donations on their income taxes, or even those who don’t make enough to fill out an income tax form. So while the result may be suggestive to some, it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. And is that really what charity is all about, who gives more?
More important, charity was never meant to be a contest. Charity should be an act from the heart to help others, and it was never meant to be given in a public display but done humbly. Kind of like prayer, which Jesus has told us shouldn’t be offered up for public display but given in a hidden place, which glorifies God not us.
As Jesus tells us here, an act of charity that pleases God is not one that someone can boast of, pointing to a tax form. It’s one in which someone has made a quiet sacrifice to help others and not ask for acclamation. Sometimes charity isn’t a monetary gift at all, but an act of kindness or a treasured possession. It’s a gift from the heart. That’s an act of love, which is what pleases God more than anything.
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In case I’m not able to post again before the holiday, let me now wish my American readers a Happy Thanksgiving. May God bless you with plenty at your table, may God bless you with abundant friends and family with whom to celebrate, and may God bless you with much to be thankful for. And may we all remember those in need and those who give in God’s tender, loving care.