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.
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this say that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all the Thou givest me, I will give the tenth to Thee.” Genesis 28:20-22
Today is the second-to-last reflection on generosity and giving. This entire study has been on our commissioning to be Apostles and spread the Gospel of Christ to all the nations. This unit of study has been about our individual participation in the life of the Church, doing our part to meet that commission that has been given to each of us individually, and to our Church collectively. This particular piece of our unit on participation has focused on generosity, how to give to the Church. In today’s reflection, again some comments will be taken from a chapter entitled “Don’t Rob God” from the book “Rebuilt” by Michael White and Tim Corcoran.
As with so many decisions in life, there is a why, a what, and a how to be answered. The “Why” is Christ, specifically our being commissioned to spread His Word to all nations. Our “what” is time, talent, treasure, in short, our life is supposed to be offered to Christ, because He freely offered His life to us.
The next logical question is “how much” do we have to give? The Old Testament speaks of the tithe, which is specifically ten percent of our income should be given to the Lord. What about our talent? How much of our talent do we give away freely, versus being compensated for it? Ideally, we should all give a tithe of our talent. We should all give effort to something we are not paid to do—volunteer at church, volunteer for a charity, volunteer to be a baseball coach. There are lots of opportunities to volunteer. And if ten percent is a stretch, do something. I have always believed it is important to serve in some manner for which one is not paid. For years, I have volunteered at summer camp. This is true service. I serve in my parish, but I also get a paycheck in my parish, so it is not pure service. Everyone should serve in some way that is pure service, from which no pay or exchange of compensation is given.
One recent week, my phone popped up a statistic that I spend an average of 2 hours and 33 minutes a day with screen time. Now, I’m not sure if that included phone calls or if that is just texting and internet usage. That means for that week, a “tithe” of my time was spent on the phone. Was a tithe of my time given to reading the Bible, praying or volunteer work? No. If there are 168 hours in a week, do we offer 16.8 of them back to God? How about 1.68?
In the Old Testament, the tithe is the beginning point of our offering. The New Testament talks of giving our whole life. So, how much are we supposed to give? One hundred percent? Ten percent? One percent?
To answer these questions, let leave “how much” for the moment and just talk about “how” to give. And for this, I want to introduce the idea of “four P’s” taken from the book “Rebuilt.” Giving should be done like this:
- Giving should be planned. There should be money designated in the budget to give to God, to the church and to charity. There should be time and talent offered as well.
- Giving should be a priority. Giving to God should come before other expenses. I remember our parents telling us that there were 165 hours in the week, that the first three hours belong to God to worship Him on Sunday mornings. That was a priority in our house. We NEVER missed worship on Sundays. I remember the priest actually calling me once to see if I was really sick because I missed ONE Sunday of worship. That’s how much of a priority it was. Giving to God should come ahead of other expenses. We should be giving Him the first-fruits of what we have, not the leftovers.
- Giving should be based on a percentage. Here is where we go into a new way of thinking when it comes to giving. We should focus on giving as a percentage, not as an amount. Ideally, everyone should give ten percent. However, if you are not used to giving as a percentage, start off by giving one or two percent, and then raise it either half-a-percent or one percentage point each year, until you reach ten percent.
- Finally, giving should be progressive. We should increase the percentage regularly. As I said, move a half-a-percent to one percent each year.
We will have one more reflection on giving tomorrow, but as for now, give some thought not to how much you give but to how you give. Give some thought to the “four P’s” related to giving—planned, priority, percentage and progressive. If we can get our mindset to reflect this kind of giving, we will not only be able to give more but our giving can become more in line with Godly giving.
We give thanks to Thee, O God; we give thanks; we call on Thy name and recount Thy wondrous deeds. At the set time which I appoint I will judge with equity. When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. I say to the boastful, “Do not boast,” and to the wicked “Do not lift up your horn; do not lift up your horn on high, or speak with insolent neck.” For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up; but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. For in the hand of the Lord there is cup, with foaming wine, well mixed; and He will pour a draught from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs. But I will rejoice forever, I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. All the horns of the wicked He will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted. Psalm 75
Planned, priority, percentage, progressive—These are the four P’s, the four pillars on which any giving should be based.
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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