Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: anonymous

“There are people,” one elder said, “who, while willing to give alms to the poor, are made by the devil to count their donations down to the last penny, so that he might deprive them of the reward for beneficence.

“I once chanced to visit a friend of mine, a priest, on the day that he was distributing alms to the poor of his parish. Just by coincidence, a poor widow came and asked to be given a little wheat.

” ‘Fetch your sack, so I can put some in,’ the priest told her. The woman got it.

” ‘It is awfully big, my dear,’ my friend somewhat brusquely told her. She became all red from her embarrassment, perhaps because there was a stranger present when she was reprimanded.

“When she left, I told my friend: ‘You do not mean to tell me that you are selling the wheat to the woman, do you Father?’

” ‘Well, since it was charity,’ I told him, ‘what need was there to scrutinize the amount and to shame the poor woman? Besides, do not forget the words of the blessed Paul: God, indeed, loves a cheerful donor.'”

When I was a child, my father would get a letter once a year from the priests of our local Roman Catholic parish.  The letter told him that if his annual income was a certain amount, then the Church told him how much of it to donate. This infuriated my father who never wanted to part with any money at all, child of the depression that he was. And yet I have met other children of the depression, such as my mother, who are quite generous people.

There was a parish breakfast a few years back when the rector told us of salary cuts to certain staff members because an insufficient amount had been pledged for the year. This is one of the wealthiest parishes in the diocese. At the coffee hour people chat about the shows they watch on premium cable stations. Or their thrice daily trip to Starbucks. I stood up during the comments section and said that I thought we needed to take care of our parish family so could we please give up all the extra cable networks and reduce the trips to Starbucks so that we could increase our pledges.

Have we really lost sight of what it means to be a cheerful giver?

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