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, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
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 6:3-4
In this unit, we are discussing our individual participation in the life of the church. Each of us makes choices not only on how much time we will spend in our relationship with God—in personal prayer and Scripture—we each make choices in how much we are going to give to the Church, from our talents and our resources. Obviously this is a personal decision that each of us makes. When it comes to money, this seems to be a very touchy subject as well.
Hopefully we are coming to the point of understand what the church is all about—it is the base from which we spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. It is the place we worship, the place we learn about Christ, it is the place we share fellowship with other Christians, and it is the place we use as a launch pad to serve the community in which we find ourselves. And I don’t mean serving baklava and gyros.
Each of us has something to contribute to the life of the Church. The Church needs teachers, singers, administrators, people who know how to repair things, writers, speakers, organizers, greeters, encouragers, and many other roles. We each need to decide which role we will take on based on the talents with which we have been blessed.
We also have a decision to make in regards to how much of our financial resources will be share with the Church. Again, a big decision and a touchy topic. As I get older and farther in the ministry, my understanding of giving to the Church has evolved. I no longer think about giving to the Church, but I think of giving to Christ. If everything I have that is good is a blessing from God, then whatever I am giving back—whether to the Church or to another person—whatever I am giving back is really a gift back to God from what He has first given to me.
So, if I earn $100,000 a year and give $10,000 to the Church or to charity, I see it as giving $10,000 back to the Lord from the $100,000 He blessed me to earn in the first place. Ideally I stop seeing any money (a good thing) as my money and seeing it as His money. Thus, I’m offering His own back to Him.
If I keep all $100,000 to myself and share nothing, what does that say about my understanding of God and His blessings towards me? It says that I see the $100,000 as something I alone earned, without any help from God. And thus it is my $100,000 to keep for myself.
Again, I appreciate that this subject is a sensitive one. And sadly, it shouldn’t be. It is a joy to receive a blessing. And it is a joy to share what we’ve been blessed with, with God and with others.
When we offer something, we should be thinking that we are offering it to Christ. When we offer encouragement, or a kind word, or a greeting, or a financial donation, we should be thinking ideally of Christ when we do it. We also shouldn’t give for recognition. Jesus is very clear in Matthew 6:3-4 that when we give alms, (charity) we should be doing it in secret. And our Father, who sees everything we do, will reward us.
To truly give means to part with something with expectation of nothing in return. To give in expectation of recognition (having our name put somewhere, etc.) is really an exchange. It is an exchange of a gift in return for recognition.
Our participation in the life of the Church should include a gift that shows gratitude, it should be sacrificial, and it should be given with joy. And most of all, it should be given to Christ!
The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes, He does not keep silence, before Him is a devouring fire, round about Him a mighty tempest. He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that He may judge His people: “Gather to Me My faithful ones, who made a covenant with Me by sacrifice!” The heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is judge! “Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. I do not reprove you for your sacrifices; your burnt offerings are continually before Me. I will accept no bull from your house, nor he-goat from your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world and all that is in it is Mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.” But to the wicked God says “What right have you to recite My statutes, or take My covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and you cast My words behind you. If you see a thief, you are a friend of his; and you keep company with adulterers. You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you. Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I rend, and there be none to deliver! He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors Me; to him who orders his way aright I will show the salvation of God!” Psalm 50
Don’t think about giving to the Church. Think about giving to Christ!
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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