St. Teresa of Avila on “sixpence none the richer”

“What wife is there who, after receiving many valuable jewels from her husband, will not give him so much as a ring — which he wants, not because of its value, for all she has is his, but as a sign of love and a token that she will be his until she dies? Does the Lord deserve less than this that we should mock Him by taking away the worthless gift[89] which we have given Him? Since we have resolved to devote to Him this very brief period of time — only a small part of what we spend upon ourselves and upon people who are not particularly grateful to us for it — let us give it Him freely, with our minds unoccupied by other things and entirely resolved never to take it back again, whatever we may suffer through trials, annoyances or aridities. Let me realize that this time is being lent me and is not my own, and feel that I can rightly be called to account for it if I am not prepared to devote it wholly to God.” (Way of
Perfection
, Ch. 23, para. 2
).

Compare to the passage from C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, from which the group Sixpence None the Richer took its name:

“Every faculty you have, your power of thiking or of moving your limbs frommoment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything taht was not in a sense His own already. So that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like. It is like a small chidl going to its father and saying, ‘Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.’ Of course, the father does, adn he is pleased with the child’s present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity Bk. 3, Ch. 11, pp. 126-127 in the 1996 Touchstone edition).

On the one hand, the fact that God has given us everything should make us want to give everything back to Him, just as the Son does. Yet He realizes we are incapable of it-He created us incapable of it, because he wants us to give freely. He would rather we give a small amount freely than everything under duress. And when we are truly not free to give, we do not need to.

St. Teresa continues:

“I say ‘wholly’, but we must not be considered as taking it back if we should fail to give it Him for a day, or for a few days, because of legitimate occupations or through some indisposition. Provided the intention remains firm, my God is not in the least meticulous;[90] He does not look at trivial details; and, if you are trying to please Him in any way, He will assuredly accept that as your gift. The other way is suitable for ungenerous souls, so mean that they are not large-hearted enough to give but find it as much as they can do to lend. Still, let them make some effort, for this Lord of ours will reckon everything we do to our credit and accept everything we want to give Him. In drawing up our reckoning, He is not in the least exacting, but generous; however large the amount we may owe Him, it is a small thing for Him to forgive us. And, as to paying us, He is so careful about this that you need have no fear He will leave us without our reward if only we raise our eyes to Heaven and remember Him.” (Way of Perfection, Ch. 23, para. 3).

Every moment we give God has immense value.

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