“God loves a cheerful giver,” writes St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians (9:7), who were not always that generous. Indeed, the first letter he wrote to them castigates their gatherings where the rich ate to the full and the poor were left with little (1 Corinthians 10: 17-32). But Paul reminds them of the generosity of Christ and remind them that “those who show generously will reap generously (2 Corinthians 9: 6)
A few years ago I read an article that noted how the poor were often more generous than the rich. The rich, also, often are generous to institutions that benefit themselves and their class – libraries, universities, symphonies, etc. There are exceptions but the general trend was that the rich were less generous than the poor and more generous to their own class than to the poor. Also, I might note, many of the rich put their names on the buildings and projects they support; Carnegie libraries are an example, but how many universities have buildings and endowed chairs named after the donors.
For me, the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel might be a warning to them, “Be careful not to make a show of your righteousness” (Matthew 6:1).
This is not just something in the US. I see something similar.
Government projects often have plaques designating who obtained the funds for the street or school or whatever, mostly the political leaders. I have even seen a sign go up for a project that was delayed for years; at a meeting a government official had promised it would be started in earnest in February. A sign was put up two weeks after the meetings but the project has still not been re-started. The sign, however, has been torn down. Poetic justice?
Private groups are no different. The local branch of an international group helped build a children’s park here in Santa Rosa de Copán. In the middle of the park is a huge concrete image of their symbol.
But the poor are different. I find many of them extremely generous. Here is one example.
A seminarian from the US is here with me to get an experience of the church in Latin America. We went to Mass on Sunday at a church up the street. At the greeting of peace Jesús asked me if he was my son. (All gringo young people are, by association, my children, I guess.) I told him that he was a seminarian here for a short period.
After Mass Jesús’ wife came up to Kevin and talked with him and gave him about 30 lempiras ($1.50). Kevin was astonished. But for me that is how many of the poor are – generous to a fault, capable of reaching out.
Oh, that we might imitate the poor!