“I must reduce myself until I am a mere conscious man, I must fundamentally renounce possessions of all kinds, not to save my soul, but in order to follow Jesus.” — Oswald Chambers

Mark 12:35-44
Mark 10:13-31
Matthew 5:38-48

Viktor Frankl describes the experience of nakedness in Auschwitz, a World War II Nazi concentration camp. When he had nothing – truly nothing – death no longer held fear over him.

By this time, he had lost his family, his career, his strength, his money, his possessions, his house, his clothing and his identity. The Nazis reduced him to a walking skeleton who answered to a number. Only then could he face death without wincing, knowing he had nothing to lose.

Reading Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” prompts the question: “Do you think it’s easier to love when you have nothing?” The question seems unique to 21st century America.

But it’s not original. Since the first century, followers of Jesus embraced poverty, believing that he demanded it. The earliest witnesses reported: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:44-45) Early believers chose freedom from a life directed by and devoted to the acquisition of wealth.

This tradition reaches through the ages to St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and, most recently, to Mother Teresa. Yet we find it seldom today.

Jesus watched as a poor widow placed her two small copper coins into the temple treasury. Added together, they totaled less than a penny. Few of us would bother to pick them up on the sidewalk. Yet Jesus identifies her gift as the most precious. She gave out of her poverty. Of course, this teaching has raised billions of dollars for churches through the ages. But that’s another lesson.

We need to be free to give, and we tend to give better when we have less. Giving a small fraction is easier than giving a large one. So Jesus asks us to give freely and understand that God himself will care for each of us.

So it is with love. The most precious gift is the time spent with someone when we were at our busiest; the $20 given to the beggar when we didn’t have it to spare; the effort lent to a neighbor when we were most tired; or a moment of pause to ponder our maker in the midst of chaos.

Do I give from my excess or out of my charity?
Do I love from my excess or out of my charity?
How did Jesus love and give?


© 2006