Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
As mentioned in the last reflection, the thoughts of this reflection and the one tomorrow will be based in part on a podcast by Rick Warren entitled “Radical Generosity” that aired in December 2017.
Today’s reflection is going to focus on three characteristics of generosity. The first characteristic of generosity is joy. Generous people give out of joy, not out of compulsion or obligation. In today’s Scripture passage, from II Corinthians 8, we read that the churches of Macedonia were sorely afflicted with poverty, yet they gave generously and joyously to the needs of the church in Jerusalem. Saint Paul was writing to the Corinthians asking for their financial help for the church in Jerusalem and holding up the Macedonians as an example of giving with joy even at a time when they had little resources. Giving should not be based on a goal, a fundraiser or a thermometer (as are often associated with fundraisers, but should be purely out of joy. That is what generosity is. In the last reflection we discussed how it is better to give than to receive, reflecting on the joy of parents when they see their children open up presents on Christmas. As a parent, as a mature person, the joy is giving, seeing kids opening their presents. If we still have more joy in receiving than giving, it means we have not grown up.
“Miser” and “miserable” have the same root. The happiest people are the givers. The unhappiest people are the takers.
The second characteristic of the generous giving is that it is “supernatural.” In II Corinthians 8:3, we read that the people of Macedonia gave “beyond their means.” They not only gave what they were able, but beyond what they were able. “Natural” is to give to one’s ability. “Supernatural” is to give beyond that. That is not natural. It is natural to protect what we have, to worry we won’t have enough, to hoard more than we need and it is certainly unnatural to give away what we may later need. The generous person trusts God in giving things away, trusting that God will show the path to sustenance. When our “why” of giving is generosity, God will show us what to give, how to give, and how to get by despite what we’ve given away.
The third characteristic of generous giving is that it is enthusiastic. It is not done out of drudgery or sorrow, but with enthusiasm. In II Corinthians 8:4, Saint Paul writes that the poor Macedonians were “begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints.” Remember that the word “enthusiasm” comes from three Greek words, “en theos ousia,” which literally means “in God’s essence.” Saint Paul confirms their enthusiasm in verse five when he writes “and this, not as we expected, but first they gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” The person who is enthusiastic in giving is in sync with God, since God is the ultimate giver. As we will discuss in the next reflection, the number one attribute of God is His generosity. Everything that we have that is good is from Him. So in giving enthusiastically, we get in sync with God.
When we give enthusiastically, we are in sync with God. And when we are in sync with God, we give enthusiastically. The two go hand in hand.
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the wicked shall be cut off; but those who wait for the Lord shall possess the land. Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look well at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall possess the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity. The wicked plots against the righteous, and gnashes his teeth at him; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for He see that his day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows, to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those who walk uprightly their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. Better is a little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken; but the Lord upholds the righteous. Psalm 37: 8-17
Joy, trust and enthusiasm are essential characteristics of generosity!
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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