In the gospel reading for the weekend of November 7th and 8th, we learn that the religious leaders in Jesus’ day had a very interesting practice regarding offerings. When it was time to take up a collection, apparently the people paraded up in front of the crowd one-by-one and put in their donations so everyone could see exactly how much was contributed. Whoa, talk about peer pressure.
I prefer our current offering system where you write “$200” in big numbers on the outside of the collection envelope while putting a five dollar bill inside. (I’m just kidding! We really don’t worry too much about showing off to our fellow parishioners. Of course, when April 15th rolls around each year, some folks have a curious habit of telling the IRS that five bucks times 52 weeks equals four grand.)
The Bible says, “Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.” Jesus pointed this out to his disciples and said, “This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.”
We know from the Gospels that Jesus’ disciples did not exactly graduate Summa Cum Laude form Jerusalem University. (I think Peter attended JU for a couple of years on a football scholarship, but went back to the fishing business after hurting his knee.) But even the disciples could do the math and realized that a few cents was nothing compared to hundreds of shekels.
Jesus went on to explain what he meant. “[The rich people] have contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
In mankind’s eyes, it’s the bottom line that counts. If a church started a fund-raising program, and one person donated five bucks while another person donated a million dollars, guess who would get a banquet in his honor and a building named after him? (Hint: it ain’t Five Dollar Freddy.)
With human beings, the amount donated is all that counts—even if the million-dollar benefactor was Bill Gates (which would be like me tossing a dime into the tip jar at Dunkin Donuts), while Five Dollar Freddy lived in a van down by the river. But in God’s eyes, it’s not quite the same. God doesn’t count what we donate, He counts what’s left in our wallet AFTER we donate.
Surveys show the average Catholic in America gives about one-percent of his income to the church, while the average Protestant gives about two-percent. Can you imagine what would happen if Christians suddenly started giving at the level commanded in Scripture, the 10-percent tithe?
And if all Christians started tithing, there would be another wonderful benefit: unbelievers would be amazed by the Christians’ commitment to the faith—and maybe even drawn toward it—as opposed to now, where unbelievers perceive Christians as lukewarm and hypocritical about religion, and have no interest in exploring the faith.
If you really want to know what’s important to a person, look at his checkbook or credit card statement. Many people don’t hesitate to spend tons of money on frivolous things, but when it comes to donating to the church, they suddenly act like they’re getting a root canal without Novocaine.
God wants only one thing from us: our undivided faith in Him. When we have a faith that is vibrant and active, we won’t hesitate to share our time and talent and, yes, our treasure with the Lord and His people.
This is a good week to prayerfully ponder how we are using our resources. We should analyze exactly how we are spending our money and our time. Are we rendering unto Caesar? Are we rendering unto God? Or are we mostly rendering unto ourselves?