Who gave the greater treasure?

There were 23 job seekers sitting around the table when the woman rose to share her good news. After months of applications and interviews, she had finally found the perfect job. It hadn’t been easy. Her resume included years of experience — not always a good thing when one is looking for a job these days. But her persistence had finally paid off and today she had come to say goodbye and to share some advice with the group.

Taking a sheet of paper out of the file on the table in front of her, she began listing the activities that had been helpful to her. Making use of the Internet, volunteering, repeatedly editing and updating her resume, and networking, networking, networking! She didn’t have a job to share with the other job seekers, but what she did have she shared generously and everyone around the table was fed.

Radio and television personalities accept multi-million-dollar contracts, sports figures and rock stars draw six, seven and eight-figure salaries, and executives of bailed-out corporations continue to receive extravagant bonuses. But what about the widows? What about those people who aren’t offered “… places of honor at banquets?” What about those people who work for minimum wage or no wage at all?

“Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces …” With the exception of the long robes this warning might just as well apply to real estate magnates and reality show superstars. Years ago, while working at a small law firm (“… in the marketplace …”), I spent much of my time organizing fundraising events so that attorneys who were running for political office might “… accept greetings …” from their constituents. It was also a part of my job to make sure that people who were particularly generous with financial contributions were given “… seats … and places of honor …” In Mark’s Gospel “[m]any rich people put in large sums …” while the widow (and the woman at the meeting of job seekers?) “… contributed all she had …” The question must be, at the end of the day, who contributed the greater treasure?

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.