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
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, 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.
II Corinthians 9: 6-8
We’ve all had the experience of shopping for a gift for someone else. You know how it feels when you set out to find the perfect gift for someone. And you search and search and then you find the perfect gift and you take it home with great joy. You can’t wait to see the joy that a friend or family member will have when they open your gift. Hopefully we’ve all felt this before.
No one gives without cheer, right? We will cheerfully give Christmas presents to our families. And we should be cheerful in giving to God and to one another.
The giving of anything involves some level of sacrifice. If we give time, if we give money, the fact is that we are sacrificing something in order to give to someone else. Let’s say that I give time to counsel someone. But I tell them, “If I wasn’t here talking to you, I’d be home enjoying my family.” If I tell them what I’m sacrificing, then I’m not giving with joy. And in this case, they may feel guilty receiving my “gift” of time. So when we give, we should focus on the joy of giving and not the sacrifice. We should give joyfully and not talk about what it cost to give. We should give with gratitude and not with a guilt trip.
My final thought on joyful giving is that the most important thing we have to give is ourselves. The greatest gift we can receive from the Lord is salvation, which we can receive through His grace because He gave HIMSELF, His life, for us. At the end of life, when we stand in front of the Lord and account for what we did with our lives, it is not going to matter how much wealth we amassed, but how much we gave away. Did we give food to the hungry, or drink to the thirsty? Did we give attention to the stranger or clothes to the naked? Did we take time to visit the sick, or offer any ministry to those in prison? (Matthew 25:31-46) The Lord tells us that our entrance into Paradise is based on our giving. And giving is based on love, which is based on joy, which is based on sacrifice, which is based in gratitude.
If we are thankful to God for what we have, and realize that whatever good we have comes from God, it is easier then to give joyfully, because we’re not giving at all. We’re giving back. Going back to the passage from II Corinthians, if we give sparingly, then we will not reap the reward of giving, which is eternal life. However, our giving must be done with joy, not reluctantly or under compulsion.
Giving of ourselves comes not only in the form of money, but most specifically, it comes in the form of time. When we give time to pay attention to someone, to cry with someone, to listen to someone, to help someone, when we do these things expecting nothing in return, then we are giving in the purest sense of the word. This is giving joyfully. This is giving with a thankful heart.
Lord, help me learn what it means to be a cheerful giver. Help me to joyfully run to give to those who are in need. Help me to trust in You, that I actually receive more joy when I give. Give me a heart that desires to give and to serve. Give to me a joyful and thankful heart, so that any service I offer is done in joy. Amen.
Whatever you give today, focus on giving it joyfully, expecting nothing in return.