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On Orthodox Giving

IconThe following article is borrowed with permission from the website of St. George’s Romanian Orthodox Cathedral, in Southfield, Michigan.  We found it to be such an inspiring discourse on Orthodox giving, that we here quote it fully, edited only for details relating to our parish:

Our parish, Holy Apostles is always willing to accept your financial gifts to the glory of God's Holy Church. Whether you are full parishioner, friend, or simply a visitor, we pray that your heart will be moved to give to the best of your personal ability, with the assurance that Our Lord blesses those who "love the beauty of His House". The parish is always working hard to meet financial goals, many of which are routine bills and necessary maintenance and up-keep items. At the same time, we are always looking to beautify and expand our facilities their appearance, as well as do our best to increase our charitable, educational, cultural, and outreach efforts.

Only with your help, and through your generosity can we truly move forward toward reaching these ever increasing goals! What you are able to offer is not just for the physical results, but for the good and up-building of His Holy Church.

For further information, please contact our treasurer, Mariya Petrenko, our warden, John Hume, or our pastor, Father George Johnson. Your tax-deductible donations are always graciously accepted and most appreciated.

PRINCIPLES FOR ORTHODOX GIVING
According to the Holy Bible

If you are a serious Christian, you should know what the Bible says about giving. One little-known reference to this principle of returning a portion of one’s income to God is found in Genesis 14. Abram had just rescued his nephew, Lot, and returning from his victory he was greeted and blessed by King Melchizedek, who was “a priest”. (Genesis 14: 18-20)  Abram was so overwhelmed at this blessing that he gave the king a tenth of his spoils, thus the first example of “tithing”. The point is that God expressed His love for Abram through the generosity of Melchizedek. In the same manner, God expresses His generous spirit to you today in countless ways. And so, in love and gratitude, you return – as did Abram -- a portion of all God enables you to earn; you return it to Him through your Church for His work.

All Belongs to God.  Too often we think that what we earn is ours to keep, forgetting that everything belongs to God and that we’re only temporary stewards. Psalm 24:1 reads, “The earth belongs to God!  Everything in all the world is His!” Haggai 2:8 records the Lord as declaring, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine.” The principle is emphasized in Leviticus.  It presents God’s plan for His people:  “a tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain or fruit, is the Lord’s and is holy… And the Lord owns every tenth animal of your herds and flocks and other domestic animals…” [27:30-32] This means whatever you earn – from salary or wages or interest or dividends or whatever – part of it belongs to God.

You Have Free Choice.  No longer are you required by law to give a tenth of all you earn.  This is not to say that you should give less than a tenth, simply that you are not required to do so.  Many Christians today give far more than a tenth.  The Apostle Paul explains this in 2nd Corinthians 9.  Paul had sent Titus to Corinth to (among other things) encourage the Christians there to give more freely, even sacrificially, and most of all to give cheerfully. “But remember this – if you give little, you will get little.  A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much.  “Everyone must make up his own mind as to how much he should give.  Don’t force anyone to give more than he really wants to, for cheerful givers are the ones God prizes. “God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more, so that there will not only be enough for your own needs, but plenty left over to give joyfully to others.”  This is one of the best explanations on giving you’ll find.  Paul says that your gift must come from the heart; that you give because you want to, not because you have to; that your rewards will be in direct proportion to what you give; that God shows His pleasure by rewarding those who give with more than they need.

A Great Spiritual Truth.  One book of the Bible replete with spiritual truths is Proverbs, written by Solomon. You’ll read: “It is possible to give away and become richer!  It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything.  Yes, the liberal man shall be rich!” [11:24]  “Happy is the generous man…” [22:9] Jesus Himself says: “For the man who uses well what he is given shall be given more, and he shall have abundance. But from the man who is unfaithful, even what little responsibility he has shall be taken from him.” [Matthew 25:29]   Then: “For if you give, you will get!  Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over.  Whatever measure you use to give – large or small – will be used to measure what is given back to you.” [Luke 6:38] Five centuries before, the prophet Malachi preached much the same thing when he urged the rebellious people of Israel to return to God.  In chapter 3:8-10 you’ll find this conversation between God and Israel:

“Will a man rob God?  Surely not!  And yet you have robbed me.”

“What do you mean?  When did we ever rob you?”

“You robbed me of the tithes and offerings due to me.  And so the awesome curse of God is cursing you, for your whole nation has been robbing me.  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so that there will be enough food in my Temple; if you do, I will open up the windows of heaven for you and pour out a blessing so great you won’t have room enough to take it in!”

This says that when you fail to return to God what is His, you are in effect stealing from Him.  But on the other hand, when you observe the great spiritual principle of giving, then God will “open up the windows of heaven for you.”  Quite a promise.

Giving is Serious Business.  Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property and lied about how much they had received for it in order to lessen the portion they would give to the church.  Peter discovered the deception, confronted Ananias, and told him he needn’t have lied because he wasn’t under any obligation to give anything if he didn’t choose to. (Acts 5:1-10)  Upon hearing this, Ananias immediately fell dead.  Three hours later, unaware of her husband’s death, Sapphira repeated the same lie, and she too fell dead. God is not making a macabre “give or die” threat here. He seems to be saying, as He did in Malaachi 1:13-14, that giving is serious business, not something to be casually dismissed.  Neither is giving something to be pretentious about.  You should give your best and you should give from the heart.

Money is Only Temporary.  When Jesus preached His marvelous Sermon on the Mount, He spoke of giving in this manner: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth where they can erode away or may be stolen.  Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value, and are safe from thieves.”

What Our Lord is saying is that earthly possessions are only temporary, ours to use and enjoy for a few brief years.  Yet what we give to advance the Kingdom of God will serve us forever in ways unexplainable inhuman terms. In his first letter to Timothy [6:17-19], Paul reemphasizes the fleeting quality of money: “Tell those who are rich not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone, but their pride and trust should be in the living God who always richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.  Tell them to use their money to do good.  They should be rich in good works and should give happily to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them. By doing this they will be storing up real treasures for themselves in heaven – it is the only safe investment for eternity!” This is not to say that people with money are not and cannot be devoted followers of Jesus.  Many are and, in fact, most who are quickly give credit to a loving heavenly Father for their privileged station in life.

When and How Much to Give.  Again in Proverbs [3:9-10], Solomon sets the pattern: “Honor the Lord by giving Him the first part of all your income, and He will fill your barns with wheat and barley and overflow your wine vats with the finest wine.”  Paul expands this principle, writing in answer to a list of questions the Christians in Corinth had sent him.  “Now here are the directions about the money you are collect-ing to send to the Christians in Jerusalem… On every Lord’s Day, each of you should put aside something from what you have earned during the week, and use it for this offering.  The amount depends on how much the Lord has helped you earn.” [1Cor 16:1]

There you have it, a brief commentary on what God’s Word says about giving. From it 15 Principles are indisputably clear concerning Christian giving.

1.       All you have belongs to God.

2.       A part of all you earn should be returned to God.

3.       The amount you give should be in proportion to what you earn.

4.       Earthly possessions are only temporary.

5.       Giving is a profound spiritual principle.

6.       Giving must come from the heart.

7.       Giving is a matter of choice, not law.

8.       Giving should be done regularly.

9.       Giving is an expression of love and gratitude.

10.     Giving puts you closer to the Lord’s work through your church.

11.     Giving is the safest investment you can make.

12.     Giving should be taken seriously.

13.     Giving will bring you rewards far out of proportion to what you give.

14.     Gifts withheld are in effect stolen from God.

15.     It doesn’t pay to rob God.

And finally, in the book of John we find in Jesus’ words the highest motivation of all for Christian giving: “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

If you, or someone you know would like more information on the good works and efforts made by our parish, or you are moved to offer a donation of any amount for the up-building of God’s Church, please contact Father George Johnson at apostlebird@aol.com or 301-572-5738. We thank you for your generosity and may Our Lord bless you!

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