"Be a Giver — Cheerful One"
by Fr. James C. Meena
St. Paul says "Do not forget thin sowing means thin reaping. The more you sow the more you reap". (II Cor. 9:6)
You don't need to be a farmer or live in an agrarian society to understand the meaning of this. There are house plants in almost every home, gardens in almost every yard and you know that if you are stingy with the seeds that you plant, then the earth is going to be stingy in its returns.
If you plant sparing you will harvest sparingly. And if you give grudgingly to those who need your support, if you give grudgingly to the charitable works of the Church, if you pay your dues grudgingly, if you respond to our appeals for charity grudgingly, then God is not pleased. "God loves a cheerful giver".
When I was a little boy my parents did not give me an allowance. Every time I needed something I had to ask for it. If my father gave happily, then I was happy. But, if he was upset about something or if he was distracted or impatient and he gave me the money grudgingly, I felt bad. If we give happily, then God is happy with us, but if we give grudgingly, God is not happy with us. This is what St. Paul is saying to us. He is saying also that there is an example that comes to us from God about giving cheerfully, "because there is no limit to the blessings which God can send you. He will always make sure that you will have all you need for yourselves in every circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works."
Now how about you in this hubbub of a society, the self-centered ego maniacal society in which we live, in which the primary credo is "Gratify yourself. Make yourselves happy. Get everything you can out of life." Isn't that a real contradiction of the things which we understand to be the teachings of Christ to go outside of ourselves, to help others to do for others, and to do it happily, cheerfully and not grudgingly because "God loves a cheerful giver?"
St. Paul goes on to make another promise, He says "The one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide you with all the seed you want and make a harvest of your good deeds a larger one, and made richer in every way, you will be able to do all the generous things which through us are the cause of thanksgiving to God". (V.10-11)
Do you know one of the reasons why our Orthodox churches have not progressed more than they have over the past 40 years? It's because we have placed mean limitations upon ourselves. We have never accepted the concept that "the sky is the limit", insofar as our ministry to others is concerned. People come to me and say, "Look at the church up the street who has just as many members as we have and whose budget is five times as great as ours, and 80 per cent of whose budget is devoted to helping other people."
Do you know why we are not able to do that? It's because the earth is our limit and not the sky. The church walls are our limit, with electric bills and it's gas bills and it's repair bills, and salaries, and once in a while we raise a little money to help the poor at Thanksgiving and Christmas. These are our limits, not the sky, therefore God only provides us what we need because we don't need anymore. What do we need it for, to put it in the bank to draw interest? We are a Church, not a bank.
So if you ever stopped and wondered why or how, stop wondering! How is it that some churches can get away with saying to their people, "10 per cent is your obligation, and anything you give over that is a contribution"? How do they get away with that while we have to fight to raise our dues by a few dollars? They can get away with it because "the sky is their limit", not the earth. They can get away with it because it is their ambition to convert the whole world to their concept of Christianity. They may never do it but they are going to try because the sky is their limit.
But the Orthodox Church is concerned with the transformation and redemption of the world as well, and if we have not the sky as our limit it's only because we are not Orthodox in the truest sense of the word. If we are satisfied to just lope along from year to year, imposing upon good hearted, volunteering people to maintain the "status quo" of our parish, then we are indeed earth-bound creatures and there is little hope for us. Are we going to just sit on our duff s and maintain the status quo? Well, you may compel me to accept that, but I will do so most unhappily and I will do it grudgingly, because I know that God loves a cheerful giver, not a fleet-footed evader.
<Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America