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
It is well with the man who deals generously and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice. Psalm 112:5
On Christmas Eve, as part of my sermon, I read the children a Christian Christmas book. After reading the story, I asked them to describe Santa Claus. One of them said “He wears red.” Another said, “He has a big, white beard.” And another said, “He’s fat.” To which I replied, “You shouldn’t be fat-shaming Santa on the day he’s supposed to bring you presents.
After a few more answers, I asked them, “Does anyone ever think to describe Santa as ‘generous?’ After all, he never seems to run out of gifts.” One child answered, “Gosh, I never thought about it like that. That is so true. Santa is the most generous person ever!”
Well, we certainly can make the case that God is more generous than all of us put together. But leaving this on a human level, if someone were to describe you in five words, would one of those words be “generous?” How about if they described you in ten words? In fifty words? Does generosity even get on the list anywhere if someone were to describe you? And if someone wrote a list of dozens of descriptions of you, is the word “generous” more likely to be on the list, or the word “stingy?”
In Matthew 10:8, Jesus says to His disciples, “You received without paying, give without paying.” In other words, we have received generously of God’s blessings. He has blessed us with talents, that allow us to reap material and monetary reward. Most important, He has blessed us with life itself. Since God is the Author of Life, every day that I wake up and am alive, it is a blessing from God. My very life is a result of God’s generosity. As we have discussed, when we look at things, or at life itself, as an entitlement, as something we are owed, it is easier to be stingy with our things and with our time. If we see our things, and our very lives as blessings, it is much easier to be generous with them. People who are thankful are generous. Because generosity is an important manifestation of gratitude and thankfulness.
Because we have “received without paying,” we should be generous in giving “without pay.” That’s what generosity is. Generosity is about sharing, expecting nothing in return. If we give expecting something in return (which doesn’t necessarily have to be money, it could be some kind of recognition), then we are exchanging, not giving.
The legend of Santa Claus involved a little exchange, as it is traditional to leave out cookies and milk. But nowhere in the legend of Santa Claus is this demanded, i.e. no cookies and milk nets you a lump of coal. The legend of Santa Claus is a tradition that focuses on the generosity of Santa, that he travels throughout the world to give toys and gifts to all the boys and girls, returning to the North Pole only after every child has been visited.
A generous person gives freely and joyfully, and I dare say, almost tirelessly. Because the effort to be generous is more invigorating than taxing. Generosity renews us more than it exhausts us. People get exhausted earning, not giving. I know from personal experience that I get exhausted faster from working for a paycheck than I do from volunteering. Working as a volunteer re-energizes me. Because it just feels good to give. It feels good to be generous.
Today’s Scripture verse from Psalm 112, reminds us that “it is well with the man who deals generously and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice.” Because there is something wholesome about it. Too many people in this world are self-serving. So much of peer pressure focuses on personal material gain rather than generosity. When someone is generous, it is like a breath of fresh air.
Generosity does not necessarily have to correlate with quantity. The hardest thing to be generous with is our time. Because it is so limited for all of us. I try to be generous with my time. I try not to overbook appointments (though it does happen occasionally). If I anticipate that someone is going to need more time, I’ll block some extra time off. However, sometimes time is limited. If quantity is not possible, I make sure there is quality, meaning, I don’t look at the phone, and we speak at a conference table where there are not computers or things on a desk to distract me. Because when there are distractions, I, like everyone, can be stingy with my attention.
There are other things we can be generous with as well, besides time and money. We can be generous in patience, in forgiveness, and in assistance. And we can be generous with encouragement. We can be generous with compliments, with building others up. If it’s ever a good thing to be stingy, it would be with criticisms and discouragement.
Lord, thank You for Your generosity towards me. This very day on which I am offering this prayer to You is only possible because of Your generosity. Please help me to be have a grateful heart and a generous spirit. Please help me to understand and appreciate my gifts, so that I can generously offer them to others. Amen.
Would anyone describe you as generous?
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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