lessons about giving from a dead guy

Despite my official abdication of the label "Christian," I do love the Bible. Here's a little classic wisdom from the man, Jesus.

Mark 12:41-44
The Widow's Offering

41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,[a]worth only a fraction of a penny.[b]
43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.”

Amen to that, can I get a halleluia!


1 comment:

Andrew said...

Luke 20:45-21:4
[45] While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, [46] "Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. [47] They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely."

[21:1] As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. [2] He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. [3] "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. [4] All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."
In the Widows offering, Jesus wasn’t imploring people to be more generous. He wouldn’t advocate giving more money to a cause he considered worthless – building a temple which was already seriously suffering from over-investment. Instead the parable was an attack on the spirit behind the scribe’s offerings. While the Widow gave with the intention of somehow serving God, the scribes used their large, very public donations as a means of serving their interests and elevating their status. The lesson Jesus was trying to teach with his statement about the widow’s offering was that you cannot judge the true value of an act without considering the motivations – knowledge, with few exceptions, only shared between individual and God.

So do I think genuine desire to help those in underdeveloped nations is a motivator for Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, United Kingdom, and Finland? Absolutely. Do I think they also do so to satisfy their self-interest and elevate their status? Absolutely. After WWII, economically and militarily, Europe was broken. Without massive foreign aid in the form of the Marshal Plan and the US anchored NATO security blanket Europe would likely have remained broken. While the Marshal Plan was quickly phased out when the European economy got back on its feet, to this day Europe has remained militarily dependant on the US. While this has allowed them to divert resources normally used for security towards some of the most comprehensive social programs on the planet it has left their options towards dealing with external threats limited. They have the carrot but not the stick. They give somewhat out of genuine generosity but also because placation and pandering is all they have available to protect their interests and elevate their international status. The EU’s handling of the Iran nuclear fiasco is a perfect demonstration of this.