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.
Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6: 2-4
My family once donated money to a church for a project to improve that parish’s landscaping. It involved erecting a new fence, retaining wall, resurfacing the parking lot, and new plants. I can’t remember how much we donated, let’s say $200. The project committee approached us and said “Two hundred dollars will get us two sections of fence. Which two sections do you want to claim as ‘yours?’” Our response was, “We are giving $200 to this project, and we don’t want our names anywhere. We don’t care whether you use our $200 for a fence or a plant or a section of the retaining wall. We are not ever going to come here and admire two sections of fence and claim that they are “ours.”
One of the sad realities in this world, not just our church, but in the world, is that people are motivated to give when (and sometimes only if) they get their name on something. That’s why at the bottom of most of the icons in our churches, the holy images depicting the Lord and the saints, there is a name or names of who “donated” the icon. And the reason why the word “donated” appears in quotes is because if we give something and then get something in return, that is an “exchange”, not a gift. A “gift” is given or donated with no expectation of return.
When I played sports many years ago, we exchanged money to get our name embroidered on the back of our sports jerseys. And my family had to pay the most money since we had the longest name. We weren’t donating the money. We were exchanging money for a service. We do it all the time. We exchange money for groceries, clothes, hotels, restaurants, entertainment and many other things.
When I “give” something, it is truly a gift. I expect nothing in return. When I give to the church, I expect nothing in return. When I give to the church, I give as though I am giving to the Lord.
In our church, a few years ago, we did away with the thermometer in the hall that showed our progress toward a stewardship goal. We even got rid of our stewardship goal. We encourage people to give, period.
When I first arrived at the parish I serve in Tampa back in 2004, they were doing a brick paver campaign, selling bricks with names on it and making a walkway with them. So as to be supportive, since we had just arrived, we bought a brick with our names on it. Now, years later, I don’t walk down the sidewalk to see my name. I haven’t taken our son over to “our brick” to show it to him with any sense of pride. And if I ever leave this parish, I won’t come back periodically to visit “our brick.” I don’t think of that brick as my legacy, that when I gone or passed on, people will see the brick and remember me. I hope I’m remembered for more than a brick.
I once visited a parish that had printed the donations of all of its stewards. It had them in many categories—Platinum giver, Archangel, Angel, etc. I quickly scanned to lowest category, wondering if they called it “cheapskate” or “fallen angel.” And because no one wants to be just an “angel,” that appealed to people sense of ego to get them to move to a higher, more prestigious sounding category. Again, giving should come from the heart, not the ego. Thus, the appeal to give must be an appeal to the heart. And a gift that is given must be a gift from the heart, rather than from the ego.
Sadly, in the Orthodox Church, if there isn’t some kind of recognition that comes with giving, often there isn’t an interest in giving. If we sell advertising space on our icons, because that’s what it is, then there is interest. I remember years ago, someone wanted to donate an altar cloth and have their name stitched to the front of it, so that everyone could look up from the pews and see “Smith” (not real name) stenciled to the front of the altar. Obviously, I said no to that request. And of course the offer for the altar cloth went away. Years ago, in a previous parish I served, a man married outside the church came to me with a “donation” for a copy machine and said “this will also ‘take care of my wedding’ (wink, wink).” To which I replied, “If you want to take care of your wedding, go ahead and let’s have one.”
If we all give joyfully and sacrificially, fundraisers and selling ad space on our icons can be curtailed. The only place where I want to find my name written permanently is in God’s Book of Life. If I appear there, there is no other recognition I need. And if I don’t appear there, it won’t matter what kind of other recognition I have accumulated. Because at the end, it matters only that the Lord remembers me.
Now, if we are going to continue the practice of selling naming rights to everything, there is nothing sinful about that necessarily. But let’s not call it a donation. Let’s call it what it is—an exchange.
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in Thee my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of Thy wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me. He will send form heaven and save me, He will put to shame those who trample upon me. God will send forth His steadfast love and His faithfulness! I lie in the midst of lions that greedily devour the sons of men; their teeth are spears and arrows, their tongues sharp swords. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Thy glory be over all the earth! They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dig a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to Thee among the nations. For Thy steadfast love is great to the heavens, Thy faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Thy glory be over all the earth! Psalm 57
Stop exchanging, and start giving!
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.
ABOUT THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN NETWORK
Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is a 501(c)3 and an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the United States of America .It is a recognized leader in the Orthodox Media field and has sustained consistent growth over twenty-two years. We have worked to create a community for both believers and non believers alike by sharing the timeless faith of Orthodoxy with the contemporary world through modern media. We are on a mission to inspire Orthodox Christians Worldwide. Click to signup to receive weekly newsletter.
Join us in our Media Ministry Missions! Help us bring the Orthodox Faith to the fingertips of Orthodox Christians worldwide! Your gift today will helps us produce and provide unlimited access to Orthodox faith-inspiring programming, services and community. Don’t wait. Share the Love of Orthodoxy Today!