Should we live our lives in a practical manner; that is to say, should our lives be defined by the attention that we pay to the necessities of life, or should it be lived in an aspirational manner; that is to say, should our lives be defined by the fervor with which we hold to our dearest principles?
In the Christian faith, there is a tenet of charity, defined best, I think, by the parable of the Widow’s Offering (Mark, 12:41-44). Here, for those who may not be familiar with this story, a widow donates her last penny to a temple, which Jesus identifies as being far more generous than any ostentatious donation that a rich man might give, as the repercussions of donating this penny is much more severe for this woman than it is for the rich man to donate a fortune.
How should we, whether Christian or otherwise, take this parable in light of the question at the beginning of this essay? If we are to be like the widow, and give the last of what we have to someone or something else, how might we do so again in the future? Is it better to give all of what we have at the risk of not being able to give again in the future, or is it better to attend to the necessities of our lives first, only giving of the excess, so that we might give and give again?
I do not believe that this is a question that can be answered in any general sense, but it is one that must be answered individually by each person who asks the question of themselves. All I can say is that, in this time of COVID and general panic, we must all take this opportunity to be generous as much as we can be. Take the time to give to the homeless person you see on your grocery run, even if they might have the disease. Be generous, even when fear takes a hold of you. Whether you can be like the widow and give of your last, of whether you can be like the rich man and give only of your excess, at least you are giving. That is all of an answer that I can give – you must answer the question of practicality for yourself.