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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros 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
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. 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
The verse “God loves a cheerful giver” has been used in just about every church fundraising campaign, even the ones that seem to put the giver “under compulsion.” We church people I suppose rationalize that maybe with enough arm twisting, people will eventually find the joy of giving. And that is probably not the case.
That having been said, if people are going to give anything, it should be done with joy. If you give a gift to someone for their birthday, it should be with joy. If you give time to your child to play, or to watch his or her sports event, or to help with homework, that “gift” should be with joy. After all, who wants a gift that has been given out of guilt? Can you imagine someone giving you a Christmas present and saying “Merry Christmas! I felt obligated to get you this gift.”
There are several points to make from today’s Epistle lesson. The first is that we should be cheerful when we are working. When you are doing the job you get paid for, you are not really giving. You are exchanging time and effort for money. So, if a secretary is earning $20 an hour to help his or her boss, he or she should give an honest and cheerful effort. There are many people who agree to do a job for a certain salary and then don’t do their job cheerfully. Look no further than today’s overpriced professional athlete. Whatever your job is, and however much you get paid for it, do your job cheerfully.
We should be cheerful when giving something away. Because if we truly understood what it means to give, we’d realize that we have nothing to give, but only to give back from what God first gave us. James 1:17 says “For every good endowment and perfect gift is from Above, coming down from the Father of Lights”. This means that every good thing we have comes from God. So, if we have time, that is a gift from God. If we have a talent, that is a gift from God. And if that talent allows us to make money, that is a gift from God. So whether we are giving time, talent or money, we really are giving it back, because all of these things have their origin with God. This includes giving time as a volunteer, or helping a friend, or giving to charity. It’s all really giving back.
There is the matter of giving to the church, which most people do under some sense of compulsion or guilt, rather than joy. I don’t know why that is that people offer money to the church with almost the same angst that they do to the Internal Revenue Service when they pay taxes. I heard a podcast recently where the speaker said that there is no nobler of a cause to work for than the work of the church because the church is what spreads the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. So, whether one is giving financially to the church or working as a volunteer, there really is no nobler thing to do than to be a partner with the Lord in the spreading of the Christian message.
Finally, as Saint Paul states for us in 2 Corinthians 9:6, we will reap what we sow. That is true in farming and it is true in Christianity. The farmer who plants a meager amount of seed will have a meager harvest. This is not profound. It’s common sense. It is the same with us in our journey to salvation. If we spend our life showing mercy, God will show us mercy. If we do not show mercy to others, He will not show us mercy either. If we have been generous in giving, He will be generous in giving to us His mercies and forgiveness. If we have been stingy, then He will be stingy with us as well. In 2 Corinthians 9:11, St. Paul tells us that we will “be enriched in every way for great generosity.” So, let us make giving of anything something that we do cheerfully and with joy, realizing that we have nothing to give, only to give back.
When You the Life of the universe were nailed unto the Cross, * and You were reckoned among the dead, O Lord, the Immortal One, * O Savior, on the third day You arose, * and resurrected Adam from decay. * For this reason were the powers of heaven crying out to You, O Life-giver: * Glory to Your sufferings, O Christ; * glory to Your Resurrection; * glory to Your condescension, only One who loves mankind. (Second Resurrectional Kathisma of the second set, 1st Tone, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Look for opportunities to give something to someone every day and to do so with cheerfulness and joy!
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: Momentum Christian Church
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