We all want to feel important.
In our fantasies we want to be the big shot - be driven around in the big cars, live on a palatial estate, sit in the front row and have people whisper and be excited and point at us and say, "Hey isn't that Mr. Big Deal?!"
Even in our donations, we want to whip out our check book and write the BIG check and have our name engraved on the bricks or the wall reserved for the BIG contributors to the church. So, that everyone can see that we are more faithful because we gave more money.
I remember being in Europe once and seeing this massive statue of a religious man, kneeling and holding out a cathedral in his hand like an offering. See God, I made a church for you!
Ironic that we have these big fantasies about being so generous and yet can be so stingy in real life.
Tithe 10% to the church?! Do you know how much money that is? Do you know what I can buy for that kind of money? Just throw a $xx in there and they'll be fine. You want me to do what? Teach RE? Sing in the choir? You want me to READ? You know I would but I work hard all week and the weekend is my only chance to relax. I just like to come to church to...be part of the furniture.
So, what are you saying? God wants everything?
Yes - that's exactly what I am saying. God gave you everything and he wants you to give him everything back. Not just money - your whole being. All your talents. He wants everything and he promises to bless you more abundantly if you are faithful. If you give everything - you will get back even more.
That's what this week's reading is all about.
Mark 12: 43 - 44
And he called his disciples to him, and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.
For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living."
The other irony is that the more we get, the more we hoard. The early Church shared everything that they had with each other. In some poorer parts of the world, they still do. There is a mission in Africa that the villagers built their church with their own hands. These people are desperately poor. They are literally surviving hand to mouth, scraping out a living, living out of huts with dirt floors. Yet, they manage to find time somehow out of their desperate struggle to survive to build a church and a school. Everyone does what they can. Those with carpentry skills build, those with no skills lift the heavy loads, the women cook, the older children take care of the younger children. And from this dirt village, a church emerges. Because it is important to them, their faith is the heart of their village.
And that is the way it should be with us. Jesus is telling us that it does not matter how much you are putting into the collection basket. What matters is how much of YOU are you putting in the basket. How much of YOU are you putting into the church?
We are a wealthy nation but we are impoverished in spirit. We know what our faith demands but we are not willing to give it. We will not speak out for the unborn because we are afraid that it's not polite. We complain about not understanding our foreign priests but we are not willing to have our own children become a priest or a sister. We complain about our church not doing enough but we won't volunteer to do more. We withhold ourselves when that is what God really wants.
In this story, Jesus is talking to us. We are the ones contributing out of abundance and even if we sign over our entire paycheck - it would still not be enough. God doesn't want our money - he made the world! God wants us. Out of our spiritual poverty, God wants us to give everything, our whole being, and then he will bless us even more.
The final irony is that it is only in giving that we truly receive. We must give up everything to gain everything.