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.
“And the multitudes asked Jesus, “What then shall we do?” And He answered them, “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”
Luke 3: 10-12
At every wedding service in the Orthodox Church, the priest prays for the couple to have a home that is well supplied with grain, wine, and oil, and for the couple to have sufficiency for themselves and to share. The key word here is “sufficiency” and how one defines that word. “Sufficient” means what is necessary to get by, it refers to needs, not wants, or luxuries. As we acquire more and more, we seem to be satisfied with less and less.
Jesus tells us that if we have what is sufficient, we are to share with those who don’t have what is sufficient. He uses the example of the person who has two coats, offering one of those coats to someone who has no coat. I would guess that this would apply to those who have two homes or two cars or more of anything that they needed.
This, of course, raises questions like, “is it okay to have seven pairs of socks, one for each day, or should I give all my socks, save one pair, away?” I would think that it is okay to have a dozen pairs of socks, or several pairs of shoes or even a few coats. But what about 30 pairs of shoes? Or 20 coats? Or 100 pairs of socks? Certainly they exceed what can be considered “sufficiency.”
The thankful heart is one that has a sense of sufficiency, and once the threshold for sufficiency is met, extra things are given away to those who don’t have sufficiency. For the one who is looking to quantify this more specifically, look to the Biblical concept of the “tithe”. In Leviticus 27: 30-32, we read:
All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. If a man wishes to redeem any of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. And all the tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord.
These words paint a beautiful image of the shepherds and the farmers passing under the staff of the herdsman and thankfully offering back ten percent of their goods, crops and animals, to the Lord. They then take the ninety percent back to enjoy. This reflects a spiritual maturity that everything we have that is good has its origin from God. So that ninety percent of what we have is a level of sufficiency, and the rest should be offered in thanksgiving back to God, to the welfare of our brethren who do not have sufficiency.
In Acts 6: 1-3, we read:
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
This brief passage tells us that the work of the early Church was three-fold—prayer, preaching, and charitable giving. And charitable giving was made possible by the tithe. Yes, it is the tithe, not taxes, that is supposed to provide for the social welfare. And it is the Church, not the government, which is supposed to be responsible for the war on poverty. Somewhere between the ancient Church and the modern one, we lost that. Actually, up until the mid-20th century, it was the Church, through the tithe, that took care of the poor.
We need to learn to be thankful for necessities, and not always be longing after luxuries. We need to learn to be thankful for what we have, rather than longing for what we don’t have. In Matthew 5: 27-30, Jesus tells us:
“And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, o men of little faith?”
His exhortation to us is that we trust Him to provide for our needs. If He makes the flowers of the field so beautiful that are here today and die tomorrow, how much more will He take care of us? If we have more than our needs being met, we are supposed to allow Him to work through us to provide for the needs of others. And all of this starts with being thankful for what we have.
Thank You Lord for Your many blessings on my life. Thank You for everything that I have. Thank You for meeting my needs. Thank You for luxuries I enjoy. Guide my heart to be not only a grateful heart but a generous heart, offering joyfully to those who are in need. Help me to be grateful for what I have. Amen.
Write down a list of ten ordinary things for which you are thankful!