Generosity that was once shown will eventually come back to bless the giver

by May Tam
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

1Kings 17:10 - 16

Hebrews 9:24 - 28

Mark 12:38 - 44

In the patriarchal society of Jesus’ time, a widow was not only pitiful but also helpless for she not only lost her husband but at the same time, she also lost her sole source of livelihood. Being dependent on others, a widow was vulnerable, often neglected and “valueless” to the society. Yet today two widows are depicted---- --one in the Old Testament (First Reading) and the other in the New Testament (Gospel Reading)----as exemplars of generosity and faith. The former gave her last meal to God’s prophet while the latter gave all she had to God’s treasury.

We know that God’s way of seeing things is different from man, so too is His evaluation. “No creature is concealed from Him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must render an account” (Hebrew 4:13). A little cake and a penny are worth more in His eyes when being given in terms of sacrifice. They are worth much more when the deeds are done in faith. The widows were themselves in need of receiving charity, yet they were willing to give up their last means of self support for a stranger (Elijah) and for God (temple treasury). This is in fact the condition and the basic attitude of what Jesus was telling His disciples --- to place all trust in God’s hands, to be confident of His provisions and care. (Mt 10:10, Lk 9:3; 10:4; 12:22-31, Mk 6:8)

In the first story, the widow was repaid by God’s messenger that “the jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail”. Her generosity to save Elijah from hunger had indeed saved herself and her son from starvation and even more so when later, her son was revived to life by the same man that she had saved (1 Kings 17:17-24). St Paul exhorted generous behavior which is grounded in God’s own overwhelming generosity. “The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Cor 9:10). Indeed generosity that was once shown will eventually come back to bless the giver.

We do not know what happened to the widow in the second story, but we can be certain that she would be provided for just as the widow of Zarephath. If giving up one’s meal for God’s man was rewarded in such an abundance, how much more abundant the reward would be when one gives up for God Himself! “She out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on”-----a complete total self offering to God who probes the heart and knows the thought (cf Ps 139) and whose generosity would not be outdone.

God needs not our monetary offering but values a heart that is filled with gratitude and thanksgiving, a heart that gives generously and ungrudgingly, a heart that is humble and meek and most of all, a heart that truly loves Him. With such a heart, we can be as certain as the widows in today’s readings-----that our rewards would be plenteous for now and for eternity.