Fr Ian writes:
As we imagine the scene at the treasury of the Temple, we ought to try to imagine perhaps someone giving to the Church, perhaps our congregation today. How would we respond if someone walked in and dropped in a fat cheque? How would our response differ to, say, a child putting in their week's pocket money? Would we treat them differently? I suggest most of us would.
The truth our Lord reveals is that God sees things very differently. Our Lord would assess any gift on the basis of the degree of sacrifice involved, and the degree of generosity. St John Chrysostom, commenting on this said, “Our Lord paid no attention to the amount of money but only to the abundance of her generosity.” What the Lord looks for is our generosity. So it might be a worthwhile exercise imagining our Lord watching us as we give – what would he say of us? Well the truth is, that our Lord knows the secrets of our hearts now, and He is aware of the truth of the matter. There is perhaps nothing like the issue of money to crystallize our commitment to something.
Central in this concern for generosity is what we might call today 'detachment'. How detached are we from our wealth? To what extent are we ruled by our wealth? How free do we feel towards our wealth – beyond providing for our basic needs? How much of a hold does our wealth have over us?
The Beatitudes of the gospel call us to blessedness through being 'poor in spirit'. This isn't to do with whether we are economically poor or not, but how detached we are to our wealth. Blessedness, or eternal happiness or joy, is reached through a detachment to wealth.
People become attached to wealth because they believe it can provide them with the security they need. This is in fact the opposite to the Christian way. For a Christian finds security not in material possessions but in Christ. The Christian does not build up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can corrupt, but builds up treasure in heaven. It might seem we can buy security and happiness, but sooner or later we must all learn that we cannot take it with us! Christ alone can give us eternal happiness (which is what blessedness is) and eternal security (which is salvation) ; we in fact depend on His great generosity bestowed on us – He asks us to be as generous with others.
So the issue we are addressing is not just to do with how much we give to Church, but the attitude of our hearts. Do we have hearts formed by habits of miserliness, that is grudging, or that is over cautious? Because this will not only affect the way we give money, but also the way in which we give ourselves to Christ. How wholeheartedly have we given ourselves to Christ? How much have we held back? How generous are we in giving our lives, our time, our energy to Christ? If He stood before us in bodily flesh would you give all, or be reserved? Are there no-go areas in our lives, where we are not prepared for Christ to enter?
These are the things that matter in the Kingdom of God. What matters to God is not the quantity but the quality of the spirit in which we give. Do we give as generously, as He has given to us?