Few, if any, passages from the four gospels are clearer than this week’s story of the widow’s mite about the importance of using the gifts of treasure God has given us for the work of his kingdom (Mark 12:41-44). In the story, Jesus commends a poor widow for contributing two small coins “worth a few cents,” while at the same time excoriating the rich for their proportionately paltry donations.
The Old Testament required Israelites to “tithe” by contributing ten percent of their wealth to the temple treasury. According to the law of Moses, “you shall tithe all the produce that grows in the field you have sown” each year (Deuteronomy 14:22). Presumably the wealthy Jews in the gospel were putting in their fair share, a tenth of all their income. Indeed, that was the law. But Jesus criticizes them anyway because they gave from their surplus and not from their need, as the widow did. She contributed “all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12:44). Apparently, Jesus expected something more than a mathematically-correct tithe.
There’s a story of a fishing village where a missionary had visited and talked about stewardship and tithing. A young boy in the village went fishing. When he returned he came and knocked on the door of the missionary and said, “Here’s my fish.” The missionary asked, “Where are the other nine?” The boy said, “They’re still in the river. I haven’t caught them yet.” He gave his first and only fish, trusting that God would give him those other fish to eat, just like the poor widow contributed both coins she had and trusted God to give her the rest.
Catholics sometimes are confused about the biblical obligation to share their financial blessings. But Christ is clear. We are to contribute from our surplus with a sacrificial donation. In return, the Lord promises to open “the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon [us] without measure” (Malachi 3:10).
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
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