Finding the Joy in Giving
Today’s readings present us with the tale of two widows. In biblical times, widows were some of the most vulnerable in society. With no husband to provide for them and no welfare system, they were completely on their own. The widow in our first reading has absolutely nothing, not even food enough for one more meal. In the midst of this, the prophet Elijah comes and demands that the woman bake him a cake! This would be comical if the situation wasn’t so desperate. What is God doing? Despite her destitute situation the woman complies and bakes the cake for Elijah. The result is that “the jar of flour did not go empty nor the jug of oil run dry” and she ate for a year. In giving all that she had, this woman received all that she needed and more.
The pardox present in our readings is that in order to receive, we have to give. Why does this work…because God will not be outdone in generosity. If we try to hoard and create our own security by constantly taking, then we wind up miserable, no matter how much wealth we might accumulate. If we give and continue give no matter how little we have, then we will never be wanting and we will always be content and happy.
In difficult financial times such as these, it can be easy to say “I don’t have enough money right now to give to the Church, but later I will.” This is not the example given us in the readings. Elijah recognizes that the woman is indeed in a very dire situation, yet he says to her “make me a cake first and then you can fix something for yourself.” To her credit, the woman trusts and is rewarded for her trust. The truth is that God does not need our money, but he wants our trust. No matter how little money we have, there is at least 10% of it that we can give to God “first” so as to grow our trust. How much should we give? The widows in the readings give us and example. It’s really a question of how happy we want to be.