How Much is Your Gift Worth?

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

Do you ever feel like whatever you have to give, it’s never enough? I’m sure most of us have at some time or another. Maybe you’ve felt it in the classroom, like no matter how hard you study, you’re just never going to grasp this material. Or maybe you’ve felt it in a relationship, when you’ve really wanted to help a friend but no matter what you do, you can’t fix their problem. Or maybe you’ve felt it in the face of societal challenges such as racism, climate change, or the Covid-19 pandemic. You want to help address these important issues, but what can you do?

Maybe you’ve even felt that way when it comes to God. Jesus wants us to “be perfect” (Mt 5:48), and the scriptures say that nothing unclean can enter heaven (Rev 21:27). It can be easy to feel like whatever you have to offer God, it will never be enough.

What Jesus shows us in this Sunday’s gospel is whatever you have to offer God, it’s enough.

Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Mk 12:41-44

This poor woman had only two coins to her name. She must have thought, what good could they possibly do? What difference can such a small contribution make? But she didn’t let those doubts stop her from giving. She gave everything she had to the Temple, not because of how much she thought her gift was worth, but because she loved God.

Contrast her example to the gospel passage we heard a few Sundays ago about the rich young man. He had treasure of great value. He could have made such a huge impact on the lives of others with his wealth. But when Jesus told him to give all his treasure to the poor and follow him, the rich man left sad “because he had many possessions” (Mk 10:22).

The cost of discipleship Jesus demanded of the rich young man is exactly how much the poor widow gave. She gave everything. The fact that her “everything” was only two coins didn’t matter, because God values our gift not based on what’s in our purse, but on what’s in our heart. When you give God everything, it’s always enough.

The widow of Zarephath we read about in the first reading (1 Kg 17:10-16) gave her last measure of flour and oil to feed God’s prophet, Elijah. On its own, it would have been enough to feed her and her son for one more day, then they would have starved. But God blessed her for her charity. He multiplied her gift and she, her son, and Elijah were able to eat for a year. Her gift was more than enough.

So if you ever feel like you don’t have what it takes to please God, just think of the widow’s two coins and remember that it was enough. The rich young man had enough. The widow of Zarephath had enough. The scribes and Pharisees had enough. The sinners and tax collectors who dined with Jesus had enough. You and I have enough.

It’s not a question of how much we have, but of how much we are willing to give.