Today's Gospel reading and thoughts about generosity


#1

We came to the widow’s mites (gets the DDT, nicotine sulfate, and organophosphates out because there’s no kill like overkill).

Something struck me about the concept of giving without expectation. If one gives money to charity in an attempt to emulate, or share, God’s generosity, is one not still giving with the expectation of getting something? I.E., giving something (money/time/etc.) with the hope of getting something (heaven/more members/better facilities/less guilt/etc.) in exchange?

Back in my bioscience days, I remember several of my profs noting that altruism simply does not exist; i.e. no known critter gives of itself simply to give of itself, there is always a benefit, or in the case of humans, a perceived benefit, if you look hard enough. If you apply it to humans, you see the same thing. The guy/gal who jumps on the live grenade in the foxhole gets momentary satisfaction from protecting his/her comrades, and/or thoughts about sacrificing oneself for others). The same applies for various martyrs that in dying for the faith, they expect to receive greater rewards later (i.e. the brothers and mother in Maccabees).

Having a very hard time wrapping my head around the concept of giving without expectation, as there is always some hidden, or not so hidden, benefit to what people and animals do. A family is paying for the complete costs of renovating the interior of the local church’s sanctuary. It’s “anonymous,” but I’m guessing that they are receiving personal benefits in terms of good feelings, etc. plus the benefit of getting rid of the remnants of carpeting that dates back to the 1970’s along with various upgrades.

So, how does one give without expectations? I am confused on the topic as it does not compute. When we donate money, are we not buying something, be it tangible or intangible, as surely as if you went to the store and bought say a loaf of bread?


#2

I believe that there are people who give with no consideration whatsoever for themselves. They do not see it as a transaction. They see it as a necessity.

Such a person, when called upon to give up his life for others, does not say to himself, “If I give up my life, then I will be rewarded in heaven.” Rather, he says “I must do this for my child” (or family, friend, comrade, or even a stranger).

His hope of heaven may be an enabling factor. It gives him the freedom to give up his life. His faith allows him to let go.


#3

We have to practice your mind and soul more. The Church never taught us to “be good and keep your mind on the reward”, this is more like a modern slogan inspired I guess by the very cheery and inspirational neo-protestant propaganda.
Holy Fathers told us to “keep thy mind in Hell and despair not” (St. Silouan). If you keep your mind in hell with full realisation that no such thing as guaranteed heaven exists and we are all worthy of God’s punishment, then you can achieve just giving away for free. I do believe. What we own we haven’t bought so we cannot sell it back in exchange for anything - “in gift you have received in gift give back” we were taught.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:” (1 Peter 4)
So it is not Christian teaching that we give in order to. We give because we must, because it is God’s will and at the end of the day it may very well mean nothing to us compared to our sins.
I imagine the saintly way is to just feel the need of the one to whom you give the gift as your own. You are simply not sacrificing at all. There is this thing they need and you happen to have control over it and you make sure they get it.


#4

I guess that I developed a very mechanistic view of things. Through my education and life experiences, have come across a variety of donors for various things, but there’s almost always a caveat to the donation. For a long time, I have been a very cynical person, with my tendencies to be so growing the more I do my current job. My nearly constant question is “what’s the angle” for either why does somebody want the item/money/etc. and why did somebody donate the thing.

Mary - I kind of get what you are saying. It just feels so strange against ~40 years of life experiences.


#5

i think i agree with the concept of giving as a “necessity”

something you simply must do; if you are able; christian charity

as far as your examples of “jumping on grenades” i doubt the thought of personal benefit when into the spli-secod decision

Medal of Honors have been won over such “decisions”


#6

I think, in large part, it is a grace from God. I’m not sure one can quantify how often it happens, but it does happen.

Wise, faith-filled persons know, however, that in the end, giving will work towards the good, but it can be a long-time coming.


#7

Simple, you give because you genuinely want to help whatever person or organization to which you are giving.

I give money to causes and organizations when I want to help them. Not because I am guilted into doing so, not because I am trying to pile up credit in heaven from doing good works (I might get an indulgence for some types of donations, but I transfer all my indulgences daily to the Poor Souls in Purgatory, I don’t keep them), not because I get a tax writeoff for some of it (I don’t always get the writeoff and to the extent I do, it makes only a small dent on the taxes, not a big benefit).

I usually don’t get some big “warm fuzzy” from helping, except sometimes when I am buying a really personalized gift for a Giving Tree and I like the idea of getting something special that an elderly person has requested. This year’s Giving Tree is very impersonal - they just want very practical items like gift cards for a homeless shelter. I’m giving to it anyway even though the warm fuzzies from a gift card are nil.

Pretty much any action can be overanalyzed, but there’s no real need for it here. I think the main point of these discussions about “giving without expectations” is that you shouldn’t be giving in order to get your name in lights for being such a classy giver, similar to how we shouldn’t pray publicly on the street corner to show off how holy we are, and also that we should not be expecting the recipient to behave a certain way, express their gratitude a certain way, etc just because we gave something.


#8

I went to the church this week and prayed about the subject of giving. A dollar amount came to me, followed by a feeling of peace and determination. (Of course, I got sick shortly thereafter so…)

So, how do I make sure that it wasn’t just a trick of the mind?


#9

What do you think might have been a trick of the mind? The dollar amount? The feeling? Your belief that your prayer was answered?

When giving money to charity, there is always the question of how much to give, and I don’t think there is a clear answer. (This also goes for giving your time, effort, or other things.) If you give too much for one purpose, you will have less to give for another purpose. The other purpose may be less important, like buying yourself a nice pastry, or more important, like buying a coat for your child. The other purpose may be difficult to compare at all; for example, how much money do you need to save for the future?

You prayed over it. That is an excellent way to start to answer these questions, but don’t expect that a dollar amount will always appear. Pray and use your God-given mind to examine your situation, make plans, and make choices. If the choices don’t seem perfectly clear, don’t worry. That level of uncertainty is a normal part of being human. Just do your best, and do it with love.


#10

Sorry it took a while to respond. Illness got the better of me.

As far as how much for the future, that is a tough question. Since we can’t really predict the future, I don’t really have an answer. I just know that some unexpected expenses are being somewhat painful these days, and really putting a dent on the amount I’d like to put away for the future. Is there ever really a figure that is “enough” to cover any eventuality?

With regard to the trick of the mind question, I guess just how powerful the human mind can be in working on things, even if what it’s projecting isn’t real. I don’t recall ever having an experience of a prayer being purportedly directly answered.

For many years, I’ve generally been a person of cold, logical calculation. If someone were to tell me that God had spoken to them, I’d either reach for some mental health commitment forms or ask myself what their objective was (think of the put your hand on the radio and be healed crowd). That’s one of the big reasons why, as I’ve looked at the Catholic faith, I have had a hard time comprehending such things. I keep asking, is it a manifestation of my subconscious in response to some expectation of some results which are generated internally due to a lack of external inputs? (i.e., if you think about red cars often enough, you’ll start noticing more red cars than you noticed before).


#11

We don’t get our morality from the lower species.
Think about it: you never seriously watch an animal, even a cat playing with its prey or something, and say, “Wow, what an evil animal”.
So why would we ever expect them to be virtuous? These things are gifts of the Spirit.

I know what you mean about cold and calculating. Good thing is that Catholicism is often a very calculated and logical thing.
But if you try to think about all the things ____ could potentially be, you drive yourself crazy. But, I don’t think the Joy of Christ is anything so shallow as a mere feeling, it is something deeper that is there–and to me that seems proof enough for my soul and the true changes done within us.
I hope you’re better from the illness.


#12

Good points.

When we give we should attempt to “rectify our intention”, that is order our intentions to the greatest good.

We should give because we love God. We should kiss our wife because we love God. We should wake up early on Saturday morning to make breakfast for our family because we love God.

We should smile at others because we love God.

Everything thus “takes on” the value of your intention. Everything thus becomes very big…because it’s done to love God!

We’re human and so it often takes “re-rectification”. We have to begin again. But God knows we’re limited, and appreciates us trying to please Him, to love Him.

And we can even make this our “running prayer” with Him…“Lord I ‘want to want’ to love you, but half of me is giving this gift because I feel guilty, or because I am vain…help me give purely, out of love for You.”

So we shouldn’t worry too much about the “end end end intention”…doubting ourselves, causing needless worry or angst or doubt…instead we should wake up in the morning and make a morning offering…in which we offer everything to Him…and then maybe we’l be able to remind ourselves during the day that we’re trying to love God with this or that act of charity or mercy…and we keep our running conversation going with God.

That’s the key thing…closeness and unity with God during the day…being honest with God, struggling to love Him and being humorous with Him when we slip back into our old ways. “Lord, I did it again, I’m sorry, help me more!”


#13

Gah, work got me for a bit.

I have prayed for confirmation as to the amount, but nothing seems forthcoming. Part of me says to make the donation and earn the ire of my financial guy, and part of me says how can you be sure.

Why is this stuff so complex?


#14

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