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” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Goal-Setting for 2018
And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42
Part Four—Acts of Charity
In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35
Good morning Prayer Team!
Giving is one of the things that we never seem to get right as Christians. When the church asks for money, people accuse the church of being money-hungry. When people give reluctantly, charities solicit, and churches ask over and over for money.
In the Orthodox wedding service, there is a prayer that is offered over the couple that they have sufficiency for themselves as well that they are able to give to those who are in need. But then, what is “sufficiency.” Many times, in our pursuit of material gain, we just keep raising our ceiling of sufficiency higher and higher.
There is a clear number given in the Old Testament, which is ten percent, a tithe, of a person’s goods, was to be set aside as holy to the Lord. In Leviticus 27:30-32, we read: “All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed or the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s it is holy to the Lord. If a man wishes to redeem any of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. And all the tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord.”
I have periodically wondered what this scene must have looked like. A family would march all of its animals and all of its possessions to the herdsman for inspection. I imagine the herdsman on a hill, and as each family passed by, ten percent of its livestock would break away and go to a special area where the tithes were collected. Same thing with other possessions, perhaps they would be loaded onto the livestock, so that as the animals went under the staff, they were saddled with ten percent of a family’s possessions.
Because we have such a sense of ownership, we consider whatever we have to be ours, and we often forget that anything good that we have is a blessing from God. Remember James 1:17—“For every good gift and perfect endowment is from Above, coming down from the Father of Lights.” So, if everything is a blessing, the tithe is the thanks we are supposed to offer to God for the blessings He has bestowed on us.
Imagine if every person gave up ONE Saturday PER YEAR (that’s not 10%, but 2% of our Saturdays) and used that Saturday to do some community service! Imagine how much good will could be done!
Imagine if every person gave ten percent of their money to charity, or if every person gave ten percent of their money to the church, and the churches in turn gave ten percent of their budgets to charity. It has been mathematically proved such generosity could cure poverty. Imagine if every person offered one prayer with someone else each week. Imagine if someone was on the receiving end of a prayer offered by someone else in their presence each week.
When you start to think of how much good could come out of giving, it really motivates us to give. At least I hope it does. By God’s grace, for many years I have been the director of the summer camp for the Metropolis of Atlanta. I offer this service without pay or compensation. It is over and above my regular job as a parish priest, for which I get paid. It is something I truly give, out of a sense of love and joy. I love my job as a parish priest, and I give with joy, but I also give in exchange for a salary. I think it is important that every person give something of their time, their talent and their treasure, for two reasons. First, God tells us that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor, and we show love for our neighbor by serving our neighbor, something that necessitates that we serve one another by giving. Secondly, there is intrinsic joy that comes back to us when we give. I can honestly say, now in middle age, that I prefer to give than to receive. It gives me great joy to give.
In making goals for 2018, make sure that you make some goals in the area of charity—whether is volunteering for your church or somewhere else; whether it is offering your talents to the church, or to some other cause; and whether it is offering your contribution of financial charity to a church or another charitable cause. God expects this of us. God rewards us for this. But aside from God’s reward, there is an internal reward that comes from giving. In a bit of irony, I have only ever found myself lacking when I failed to give. Giving has always been “rewarded” in some way.
Lord, thank You for Your example of what it means to give. You gave everything to us by dying for us. Help me to find joy in giving, and to trust in You when I offer time, talent and treasure. Bring others into my path so that I may have the opportunity to help others. Help me to have sufficiency so that I may share with those in need, but also help me to have the humility to find a “ceiling” for material gain that will be pleasing to You. Amen.
Set a goal to give more in 2018!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
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.
Photo Credit: Cranston Christian Fellowship
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