What’s the lesson of the poor widow?

1 min read
Widow's mite
Ignaz Dullinger, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Question: Jesus praises the poor widow for giving from what she had need of and seems dismissive of those who gave from their surplus. Isn’t there something irresponsible about giving from what we need? What is the Lord really saying here? 

Name, location withheld 

Answer: The nature of a sacrifice is that it hurts just a bit. And while sacrificial gifts should not bankrupt the giver (cf. 2 Cor 8:13), merely giving out of one’s surplus is not by nature a true sacrifice. In fact, some give just to be free of certain burdens (e.g. yard sales or donations of old clothes, or giving financially to lower one’s tax rates). Such giving is not wrong but is not really a sacrifice either. To give sacrificially, as does the poor widow, is to give until it hurts or discomforts us somehow. Giving God leftovers is not a sacrifice, but giving from some of what we need is. Irresponsibility is not praised here by Jesus, but many of us cling to our wealth and call necessary what is merely helpful or comfortable. Are we willing to give even when it challenges this or hurts us just a bit? That is the nature of true sacrifice. 

Msgr. Charles Pope

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at blog.adw.org. Send questions to msgrpope@osv.com.