According to the Journal of Philanthropy, “Rich people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people in more economically diverse communities. When people making more than $200,000 a year account for more than 40 percent of local taxpayers, the wealthy residents give an average of 2.8 percent of discretionary income to charity, about the same as the middle class. Itemizers earning $200,000 or more give 4.2 percent.”
The Guardian reports, “People are much more responsive to charitable pleas that feature a single, identifiable beneficiary…”
The reading for the Thirty-second Sunday, “The Widow’s Mite.” Jesus explains how the widow gives from her poverty. The Journal of Philanthropy tells us of how the rich living in rich neighborhoods give less than those who live in economically diverse communities. They, like the widow, see the poor every day.
Leaders in federal, state, local government, in private enterprise, and in civic organizations, kin with the poor, more readily respond. Deuteronomy 17:14-20 comments on these leaders, and their need to come from the people, never being richer than the people. Luke 7:26-50 speaks of the deviant woman at Simon’s home. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you see this woman?” In Cleveland, Ohio, the rich live in Bratenahl, the poor in East Cleveland. “The average home price in Bratenahl is $638,729. “The average price for East Cleveland homes is $53,456.” Can people from Bratenahl understand living in East Cleveland? I remember looking for work after college. A rich kid in our dorm gave the advice of spending $20 and using it on the payphone to call perspective employers. Told there was no $20, he advised spending $20 on resumes. There was no concept of not having $20.
Bede writes in the Catena Aurea, “The widow casts two mites into the treasury; the love of God and neighbor. The rich sends his own abundance into the treasury; presuming his own righteousness; the widow sends her whole living into God’s treasury, she understands, her living is not her desert, but Divine grace.” The widow brings, suffering herself, she knows suffering. The rich brings blinded by the world of concepts, his view of right and wrong, he thinks it is right.
The rich, the Simons of our world, never see that woman. Jesus asks Simon, “Do you see this woman or an occupation?” Our rich never see the woman. Mark 7 has the Deaf Mute. To speak, we must first hear. If the poor are far away, we cannot hear them, how can we address their needs? Mark 8 has the Blind Man. The first time Jesus touches him, the Blind Man sees walking trees, people’s exterior. The second time, real human beings. How can the Blind Man see other human beings if he walls them off in gated communities?
The widow lives among the poor, seeing their suffering. The rich live apart, never seeing or hearing. Therefore, she contributes more of what little she has. Do we see? Hear?