That gospel story of the poor widow giving her two small coins into the temple treasury (cfr. Lk 21,1-4) once again reminds us about how true Christian poverty leads to generosity and total self-giving which is the very essence of love that in turn is the very essence of God, as St. John says it so explicitly, “Deus caritas est.” (1 Jn 4,16)
One lesson we can learn from that episode is that generosity is not a matter of how much we give but rather of total detachment from the things of this world so that our heart can only be for God. We therefore have to be wary of our strong, if often subtle, attachment to the things of this world such that our heart would at best be a divided heart, which is actually an impossibility.
We have to learn to let go of our possessions, our preferences, our opinions, etc., until we can say that we are letting go of our whole selves so as to give everything to God.
This is what generosity is all about. Instead of feeling emptied, we feel filled with peace and joy. No earthly happening can add or diminish that peace and joy. It’s a peace and joy that can only be the effect of having God with us. As St. Teresa once said, “Solo Dios basta,” with God we have enough.
Christian poverty is never a state of misery and pure suffering and privation, even if in human eyes it can be seen that way. It is always motivated by love of God and neighbor, and is filled with all goodness, generosity and magnanimity.
It is a spirit of total self-giving that goes beyond any effort at quantification and measure. It’s never a matter of how much we give and keep. It’s purely a matter of total self-giving that identifies us with God of whom we are supposed to be his image and likeness.
We have to learn to develop and live this true spirit of Christian poverty which first of all would need God’s grace which we have to constantly beg and, of course, to exert our all-out effort. We have to learn to continually conquer our tendency to be improperly attached to earthly things, even as we know that the things of this world are also important, but only as means, never as ends in themselves.
Yes, we have to continually rectify our intentions and give ourselves concrete standards, criteria and goals to guide us in the way we use the things of this world while living true Christian poverty.
We have to learn how to live Christian poverty while using the things of this world. While it’s true that Christ told the rich young man, and us, to “sell everything and give to the poor…and come, follow me,” (Mk 10,21), we need to understand that the Christian spirit of poverty and detachment does not prevent us from having the things of this world, like money.
But, yes, we need to be careful that our having the things of this world does not undermine our love for God. If ever, the things of this world should be pursued and used for the sole purpose of loving God and everybody else. We are not angels. We are not pure spirits. We need things to live and survive, and to give glory to God and to help everybody else.*