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.
“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
Sometimes we are quick to disparage other Christian denominations as lacking fullness of faith or tradition or legitimacy. And while that may be true in some instances, there are certainly lessons we can learn from other Christian denominations. Many Protestant mega-churches began a group of people worshipping in someone’s living room. And over a short period of time grew into church campuses where thousands of people attend on Sundays. Some of these mega-church denominations have opened colleges and operate hospitals, rehab centers and other social services. On the other hand, there are many Orthodox Churches, churches filled with Tradition and theological “fullness” that can barely keep their doors open. What is the difference between our churches and theirs? Again, some will disparage Starbucks coffee kiosks in the narthex, drums and strobe lights in the worship services, and pastors who preach in polo shirts instead of vestments. The biggest difference between our church and theirs, however, is that they know how to give, and we don’t.
Many of us have heard about Rick Warren, the prominent pastor who is also the author of the book “The Purpose Driven Life,” as well as “The Purpose Driven Church,” among many other publications. I have listened to many of his podcasts, and have learned a great deal from them. One such podcast was entitled “Radical Giving” and it aired originally in December 2017. Having recently listened to it again, I have taken some notes based on his presentation that I would like to share with you in this reflection and in the next two. Please bear in mind that these thoughts are mostly his, not mine, though I have added a few thoughts of my own.
When we become parents, the joy of Christmas is more about giving than about getting. We love to see the joy in our children’s faces when they open up the gifts we have bought them. After all, how much joy is there in opening up another pair of socks? But when we give our children something, and we see their face light up with joy, that brings us a great joy.
In Proverbs 11:24, we read: “One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” In an interesting irony, the world of the one who is generous gets larger and larger, while the world of the one who is stingy gets smaller and smaller.
When we are generous, it enlarges are impact and influence. We are not just talking about financial giving either. We are talking about a lifestyle of generosity—to be generous with our time, with our praise of others, with our encouragement, our sympathy, our forgiveness, our compliments, and our kindness. It means being generous with the attention we pay to others, to be generous in listening to others, and to be generous in withholding judgment. Generosity is about living life as a giver, not as a taker.
In the following two reflections, we will be discussing II Corinthians 8-9, classic chapters on how to live a generous lifestyle. Generosity is about an attitude, not an amount. God does not care how much we give, as much as He cares about how we give and why we give. He care more about motivation than amount. He honors our intention in what we are doing. Remember the widow who put in the last penny she had, how He honored her more than those who had put in much more.
In II Corinthians 8:12, we read: “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he has not.” This means that when we give willingly and joyfully, then God accepts what we have given, and does not value it against others who have given more. God wants us to give what we have, not what we don’t have. God is concerned more with our why and our how when it comes to giving, not the amount.
God is after our hearts, not our wallets. He wants our love, not our money. Therefore, again, it is not what we give, but how and why we give it.
We learn generosity from our parents. We teach generosity to our children. We model generosity to those we encounter. Sadly, many of us have not learned how to give with joy. We’ve learned how to do it for recognition, but not for joy. Each of us can do better when it comes to generosity—and not just with our money, but with our time, our attention, our forgiveness, our encouragement and many other things.
We will continue this discussion in the next reflection, which will be about characteristics of generous givers, while the following one will be about the results of giving generously. Please read these messages with an open mind and heart. They are meant to be messages of encouragement to improve an important Godly trait that most of us, myself included, can do much better at.
Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together! My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart understanding. I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre. Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me, men who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? Truly no man can ransom himself, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of his life is costly, and can never suffice, ha he should continue to live on forever, and never see the Pit. Yea, he shall see that even the wise die, the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they names lands their own. Man cannot abide in his pomp, he is like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who have foolish confidence, the end of those who are pleased with their portion. Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; Death shall be their shepherd, straight to the grave they descend, and their form shall waste away; Sheol shall be their home. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me. Be not afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him. Though, while he lives, he counts himself happy, and though a man gets praise when he does well for himself, he will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never more see the light. Man cannot abide in his pomp, he is like the beasts that perish. Psalm 49
It is more blessed to give and to receive, and in most cases, it brings more joy as well!
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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