One of my favorite bible passages is “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). I try to say it each day in the morning to remember that, no matter what happens, I should be joyful. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail, but the ideal of rejoicing, being joyful and having joy in our hearts, is one of the most consistent themes in the Scriptures. It is one of the central themes in today’s Epistle reading, on this the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, from 2nd Corinthians 9:6-11.
Before examining the reading, let us look at the context of the passage. St. Paul, starting in Chapter 8 informs the Corinthians that Titus and others are coming to receive, and then bring, their material offering of assistance to the Christians in Macedonia. Some 2,000 years later, the situation among Christians has changed little. Our tithes and offerings not only support our ministries to our members, but to non-members who come into contact with our parish and to other parishes and people throughout our Eastern American Diocese and throughout the world.
In today’s reading, St. Paul articulates four principles of Christian giving.
The first principle of Christian giving is to “make up your mind” (v.7). In other words, Christian giving, which is generous and sacrificial, requires forethought and planning. We must begin now for the next year to anticipate our income, consider the ideal of tithing, decide how much we will give, and then order our other expenses and obligations around our stewardship commitment. The Israelites were commanded by God to give their first-born to Him along with the first-fruits of their harvest.
This helped reinforce the first of the Ten Commandments, “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex.20:1-3) If we wait until the end of the year to see what is left-over, then we are not giving our first fruits and most certainly, we have not sacrificed anything in our giving. We must make up our minds and plan ahead.
The second principle is “God loves a cheerful giver” (v.7). In other words, we should feel joy in our heart when we give. As St. Paul says, we should not give grudgingly, nor out of obligation. Perhaps you have heard it said, “Give until it hurts.” However, in giving to God and His Church, we say, “Give until it feels good.” Therefore, if we cannot seem to feel good about our giving, it is probably because we are not giving generously and sacrificially. Our pain or discomfort are from the fact that we separate ourselves from God’s love when we give grudgingly or out of obligation. God loves a cheerful giver.
The third principle is “Sowing bountifully leads to reaping bountifully” (v.6, 11). In other words, the more you give, the more you get. As Orthodox we do not teach what some call the “Prosperity Gospel,” that says, if we follow God, He will make us materially rich. Rather, our obedience to God’s commandments, including the commandment to give materially to Him and to others, will enrich us with spiritual gifts like wisdom, knowledge, and faith (1Cor.12:8-11). In our generous and sacrificial giving, God will help us learn how to live with less, thereby cutting-off the passion of greed.
The fourth and final principle from today’s reading is “generosity produces thanksgiving to God” (v.11). When people receive a gift, their immediate response is thanksgiving. When Christians receive help from other Christians, they not only thank the giver but they thank God for inspiring the gift. So our gift to those in need and the Church, help build-up the faith of others in Christ our Lord. In addition, our giving mystically produces thanksgiving within our own heart.
Through generous and sacrificial giving, greed is crucified, and we are better able to be thankful for what we have and thankful for the opportunity to give.
Today I am torn in my thoughts and emotions: I do not like talking about Tithing, giving to the Church. However, it is a command from God.
Yes, we all try to give something each month to the Church, God’s Church, and our Parish.
Why do we give to our Parish? God tell us to, yes! However, why else?
Holy Myrrhbearers Orthodox Church, that we are all members of, in today’s world and society and culture, has bills to pay each month: electricity, rent, insurance, supplies for the Altar, to name a few. We have bills to pay just like each of us have in our own household.
We are family!
This family, this parish, has just purchased a plot of land to build a Church building on, our Parish Church, our Church Family’s home! This will take much funds to accomplish, above the normal bills we have now. We get no help from the county or federal government. WE take care of our family. Yes, we will do fundraisers, but:
I implore each and every one of us, to go to God in Prayer and continue to pray without ceasing. Ask Him, what your part is, in your Church, above and beyond your normal monthly giving. How will you support our new Church Building? Talk to Fr Gabriel about the costs to build. Then between you and God, in your heart, determine how you will become more a part of this Parish and help us all to build yours’ and God’s Church, together as family.
These practical considerations, however, are not the heart of the matter, which is, first and foremost, a spiritual concern. Supporting one’s parish should be as much an accepted part of spiritual life as prayer and fasting. We give not for the benefit of our parish – this is simply a consequence; we give for the benefit of our souls.
What we give, we give to God – with no strings or emotional attachment. And we should tithe willingly, recognizing that all we have is from God, and that our tithe will increase our spiritual benefit, as promised by the Lord.
God said through His prophet:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove Me now herewith … if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. … and all nations shall call you blessed… (Malachi 3:10-12)