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.
The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God; for the rendering of this service not only supplies the wants of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God. II Corinthians 9: 6-12
As mentioned in the last reflection, the thoughts of this reflection will be based in part on a podcast by Rick Warren entitled “Radical Generosity” that aired in December 2017.
When we invest in something, all of a sudden we start carrying about it. Because where your money is, that is where your heart is. If you invest in a company, you start caring more about how that company does. If you invest in a political party, or a project or a ministry, then you care about that more.
Going back to II Corinthians 8:5, the passage we discussed in the last reflection, we read: ”And this, not as we expected, but first they gave themselves to the Lord, and to us by the will of God.” They committed themselves to God, and in so doing, they committed themselves to one another. This is what a mature Christian does. Giving becomes an attitude, and a habit. Every time we give, our hearts grow. Because every time we give, we grow closer to God and to whichever neighbor to whom we are giving. When we are very generous with our attention, sympathy, time (when I don’t have time to give but I give it anyway), compliments, praise, forgiveness—as you can see it’s not just money—an amazing transformation takes place in us.
There are several things that happen when we are very generous.
First, generosity increases our love for Christ. Because giving is an act of love. In II Corinthians 8: 8 we read “I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.” We don’t give under command or coercion. That is not giving, it is paying. Giving reflects the sincerity of our love for Christ and for others. In Matthew 6:21 we read “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Wherever it is we put our treasure, that’s what we care about, that’s where our hearts go. The more we give to Jesus, the more our hearts will go to Him.
Second, generosity makes us more like Christ. When we give, it breaks our grip on materialism. Because Christ is the par excellence example of generosity. At the Incarnation, the Son of God came to earth to be with us and to be like us. He descended from heaven to be born in a barn. He gave His own life for us. These are the ultimate acts of generosity. In John 3:16, we read “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The number one attribute of God is His generosity. Everything we have is a gift of God’s generosity. There are more promises related to living a generous lifestyle than any other thing. God wants us to be like Him, so He wants us to be generous. We are not here for ourselves, but to live for others. God made us to become like Him.
Third, generosity deepens our faith. Every time we are generous, our faith grows. Why? Because in giving away what we have, we have to trust that the Lord will provide for us. Generosity tells the Lord “I trust you will give something back for me.” And trust and faith go hand in hand. In II Corinthians 9: 6, we read “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” If a farmer sows an enormous seed, he gets an enormous crop. And whenever a farmer plants one seed, he doesn’t get a seed back but a plant. When we give to God, He multiplies it back on us. In II Corinthians 9:7-8, we read “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.” In other words, God is telling us the more we give away, the more we will be blessed. And God is able to provide us with “every blessing in abundance.” If we are generous, God will take care of all of our needs. And we will be enriched so that we can be even more generous.
Fourth, generosity causes others to thank God. In normal generosity, we’re talking about giving outside of the Church, only the donor gets thanked. In generosity towards God, the donor gets thanks and the Lord gets thanked because of the donor. This is supported in II Corinthians 9: 11-12, where we read “You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God; for the rendering of this service not only supplies the wants of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God.”
Finally, generosity honors God as a witness to the world. Every time we are generous with our lives, our time, our money, our listening, it honors God, it is an evidence of love. In II Corinthians 9: 13, we read “Under the test of this service, you will glorify God by your obedience in acknowledging the gospel of Christ, and by the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others.” When we are committed to spread the Good News and fund it, this glorifies God.
One sober question we all need to answer is this: Is anyone going to be in heaven because of you? When we are generous with love, others will come to Christ because of us. When we are generous to the Church, others will come to Christ through the Church, which has been supported by us.
The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will abide forever; they are not put to shame in evil times, in the days of famine they have abundance. But the wicked perish; the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures, they vanish—like smoke they vanish away. The wicked borrows, and cannot pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; for those blessed by the Lord shall possess the land, but those cursed by Him shall be cut off. The steps of a man are from the Lord, and He establishes him in whose way He delights; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord is the stay of his hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread. He is ever giving liberally and lending, and his children become a blessing. Psalm 37: 18-26
God smiles on how we give, not on what amount we give. When we give, God smiles on us. Generosity increases our love for Christ, makes us more like Christ, it deepens our faith, causes others to thank God, and honors God as a witness to the world.
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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