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
And He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. And He called His disciples to Him, and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.” Mark 12:41-43
Imagine if someone “gave” you $100 a week, just because. Every week, you’d get $100. Would you keep it all to yourself? Would you share a portion of it with anyone else? What if, after a while, the person who gave you the money said “I’m going to give you the same $100 a week but I want you to give $10 of it back”? Would you be angry with him? Would you think “hey, once you’ve given me the hundred dollars its mine to do what I want with it.”
Everything we have that is good ultimately has God as its source. That means that even every dollar we “earn” is actually a gift. Because if I have a job that nets me a salary, I have the job because I have a talent and I have a talent because I was given that talent by God. God gives some the talent to be doctors, others teachers, others architects, others athletes. Every person has a gift. And God expects each of us to use our gifts to His glory, and whatever we derive materially from our gifts, He expects that a certain amount will be given back. This is the concept of the tithe and the tithe is ten percent.
In Leviticus 27:32, we read “And all the tithe of hears and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord.” What a beautiful image that paints, all of the people of Israel passing under the staff of Moses, receiving a blessing, as they joyfully offered a tenth of their property each year in thanksgiving to the Lord.
We are conditioned in our society not to give, but to exchange. Because to truly give means to offer expecting nothing in return. When we expect something in return, then we are exchanging, not giving. This is why I will never understand in our churches, why when people “donate” something but they get their name on it why we consider that a gift. It is an exchange. Someone exchanges money for recognition. This is exchanging, not giving.
We also are conditioned to think of our things as OUR things, rather than gifts from God. Every dollar we have we see as an earning, rather than a gift. This is why it is hard for many to part with their earnings, rather than joyfully offering gifts.
The story of the widow’s penny quoted above shows how God views joyful and sacrificial giving. It is not how much you give compared to anyone else. It is how much you give back in comparison to how much you have been given.
Acts 20:35 says “In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” So giving brings blessing as well as joy.
In Matthew 6:21, Jesus says “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The heart of the widow in today’s scripture message was such that she gave everything she had back to the Lord. That is the ideal. Before we can reach 100%, let’s try for 10% and before we get to even 10%, let us give what we give rather than exchange. And let us give with joy. After all, we’re not really giving at all. We’re giving back a portion of what He first gave us.
Lord, thank You for the many gifts and talents with which You have blessed me (name them). Thank You that I can provide sustenance for myself and my family. Help me to be a grateful stewardship of my treasures, seeing my treasure as a gift from You and joyfully sharing it with the church and with charity. Help me to also be a trusting stewardship, trusting that even as I divest myself of material things, I not only gain spiritual treasures but that You will continue to provide for my well-being.
Give today without expecting anything in return!
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa. www.prayerteam365.com
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