Dear friends in Christ,
"And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, 'Truly I say to you that this widow has put in more than all: for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had" (St. Luke 21:1-4).
Our Lord very wisely points out the importance of giving but also the spirit in which we give our offering to God. In other words to remember that how we give is also as important as what we give. It is for this reason that the gift of the widow's mites was more earnestly praised and valued by Jesus than was the gold piece of the wealthy. It was given with greater sincerity of motive, and certainly represents far greater sacrifice.
Very few of us can give thousands of dollars to advance the work of the Kingdom of God, or to send large sums of money to help feed starving children. But if everyone else used that as a reason and excuse for not giving at all, then nothing good would ever happen. No matter how generous the wealthy may be, every good cause continues to depend on the small but steady stream of gifts from those who cannot give much, but are nonetheless moved to give what they can.
Saint John Chrysostom writes, "In the matter of piety, poverty serves us better than wealth, and work better than idleness, especially since wealth becomes an obstacle even for those who do not devote themselves to it. Yet, when we must put aside our wrath, quench our envy, soften our anger, offer our prayers, and show a disposition which is reasonable, mild, kindly, and loving, how could poverty stand in our way? For we accomplish these things not by spending money but by making the correct choice. Almsgiving above all else requires money, but even this shines with a brighter luster when the alms are given from our poverty. The widow who paid in the two mites was poorer than any human, but she outdid them all."
A "mite" was a Jewish copper coin of the lowest value, like a penny. Yet this sacrificial offering by the "poor widow" is praise by Our Lord Jesus Christ. The value of a gift derives from the spirit in which it is given. A gift that seeks recognition loses spiritual value; a gift made from the heart gains immense value.
The widow's gift was approved because it was the offering of a simple heart, full of love for God. She wished to show gratitude and to give a deliberate expression of her confidence in God; and therefore she gave up her living, and threw herself on Him Who feeds the birds, and never forgets His children.
Most of all the gifts was valued because it represented self-sacrifice. They gave of their abundance she gave all her living; in other words, herself. Too often we lose the highest blessedness because we do not cross the border-line which lies between self-indulgence and Christ-likeness. When we begin to feel that some service is a burden, and demands a strain, we give it up to someone else to whom the effort would be less! Let us seek the spirit of the poor widow, who knew that God could do without her gift, but felt that her love could not be satisfied without her sacrifice.
It is this spirit of giving that should prevail in our parish. The spirit of the widow woman. The Stewardship program of our Archdiocese and our parish is the most Christian of all the other programs that were introduced in the past. It permits the individual Orthodox Christian to give what he/she is able to give without demanding a specific amount. I am sure that you will agree that your parish has not ever made any extraordinary demands on you over the years. It has shown the proper respect and consideration on all its stewards. However, I personally cannot understand why any Orthodox Christian would feel that he/she has no obligation to at least make a small offering to his/her church. A church that meets all his/her needs and serves everyone without any distinction or conditions. I cannot understand someone taking advantage of his/her church simply to have a sacrament and then disappear or cease all support of his/her church. Just as the church and parish show love, consideration, compassion, and sensitivity with all its faithful, every Christian must also reciprocate in kind.
Let me say again that it is not the amount that counts but the willingness to serve Christ and His Church. If there are fundraising programs sponsored by the parish for specific ministries or programs it does not mean that everyone is expected to give large amounts which will put them at risk. However everyone should be willing to give their "two mites" to God. There is absolutely no excuse or reason why any Christian would refuse to do even that.
What I say is do what you can.
With sincere agape in Christ,