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
But the Lord answered her “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful; Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.
Luke 10: 41-42
Good morning Prayer Team!
I want to stay for one more day on the subject of needful things.
In the Orthodox wedding service, there are two prayers that mention the bride and groom having material wealth. One says :
Keep their homes well supplied with grain, wine, oil and every good thing, so that they may also give to those who are in need.
And the second:
Bless them with all material gifts, so that in having sufficiency for themselves they may also abound in good works which are pleasing to You.
Neither prayer says “Give them only what they need,” or “Give them a meager existence.” The prayer ask for their home to be “well supplied” and to be blessed with “all material gifts.”
But the pray doesn’t end with a request for material blessings. The first prayer offers that the home should be well supplied, so much so, that the couple should give to those who are in need. And the second prayer says that having achieved what is sufficient, that the couple should abound in good works which are pleasing to God, namely loving our neighbor through charity.
But how much to give and how much to keep? This is a dilemma. Politicians have tried to solve this dilemma through taxation-those who have more should give more. The tax code even tells us how much we should “give”. Except that we aren’t giving when it’s required-we are “paying”. The concept of “giving” is something that was supposed to be intrinsic to each person, part of their spiritual fiber. We are supposed to have the spiritual maturity to realize “I have enough, let me give to others.” Many people don’t have a concept of a “ceiling” when it comes to material gain-we just want to gain and gain and gain.
When I was a teenager, my “dream car” was a Toyota Camry. And when I was 26, my dream came true. I never desired to own a sleek sports car. I’m 43 and still driving now my second Camry. (The first one lasted ten years, and I hope to get ten years out of this one and so in three or four years, I hope to buy another. . .Camry).
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like material conveniences-I like having a modest home in the suburbs, I like going out to dinner, I like going to movies and baseball games. But I also like to give. I like to give to those in need. I like to give time, and I like to give financial help-I remember when I was in college and I needed some money for a project that I was working on and an older gentleman who was pleased with this project unexpectedly stepped forward and gave me a lot of money to see it to completion. When I asked why would he give this money to me, after all I hardly knew him, he said to me, “Because God has blessed me.” I remember a priest who gave me a book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” a book by the way that changed my outlook on life significantly, and when I asked him, “How much do I owe you for this book?” he answered, “Nothing, just pay it forward.” Over the years I’ve probably bought 300 of these books for parishioners and there are always a few of them laying around my office to give to people, with the same instructions I received: “pay it forward.”
My point this morning it not to say that I am a great giver-I am still learning. But there is a joy in giving, in fact there is more joy in giving than in receiving many times. And when Jesus talks about the needful things, there is much more to this than meets the eye. The needful things are what are needed to survive-not luxuries, but necessities. And it is up to us to learn the difference. We know that faith in Christ is needed in order to achieve salvation. And we know that part of having faith, is loving our fellow man, and part of loving our neighbor as ourselves is to give to our neighbor to help meet his needs. So as you think about the needful things today, think about the things you have that are not “needful,” and think about how you can help provide “needful things” for the person who doesn’t have them. And these things are not only money, though that is a big part of it, but some people need someone to talk to today, or are in need of some positive reinforcement or encouragement. There are lots of ways to give and lots of needs. Let’s all jump in today to fill someone’s need!
Lord, thank You for the many blessings I have in my life-that I have a roof over my head, and shoes for my feet. Today’s prayer is for those who have neither of these. Please be with all those who are truly in “need” today. Please bless those who work for outreach organizations so that they may minister to all those who are in need. Please inspire me to be more charitable with my time, and with my financial resources. Please help me to be aware of those around me who need encouragement or a sympathetic ear. Grow in my heart a spirit of giving. Grant me material sufficiency, so that I may give to those who are in need. Amen.
Have a great day!