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Homily for 10/15/06 - P18 - cheerful giver

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  • Fr David Moser
    2 Cor 9:6-11 Almost everyone at one time or another dreams about winning the lottery. We make big plans about what to do with all that money ? to buy cars and
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 21, 2006
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      2 Cor 9:6-11

      Almost everyone at one time or another dreams about winning the lottery.
      We make big plans about what to do with all that money ? to buy cars and
      houses and boats and planes and other luxuries. But just to make it all
      OK to spend so much on our own wants, we also plan to give to this or
      that charity and even to the Church to help others in need with the
      money ? in our mind becoming big philanthropists. It is very easy to
      give away that which we do not have, to dream about giving away millions
      of dollars that we don?t yet possess, however, when it comes to the
      things that we do have, giving anything away is much harder. The Apostle
      reminds us that ?the Lord loves a cheerful giver?, that is a person who
      is generous with all that he has, who is not forced to share his wealth
      but freely gives it away. Now in our fantasies, we are all ?cheerful
      givers? but in reality, we all weigh very carefully to see what we can
      ?afford? to give and whether or not we will be hurting ourselves by what
      we give. And even when we do give, we tend to only give to those whom we
      deem ?worthy? of our gift. Rather than ?cheerful givers? we are more
      often ?careful givers?.

      What then does it mean to be a ?cheerful giver? ? it is just handing out
      cash with a smile on your face, or is there something more to it? In the
      epistle, the cheerful giver is described as one who gives purposefully,
      not grudgingly and not sparingly. A cheerful giver is one who willingly
      and freely shares that which he has, enjoying the act of giving to
      others for its own sake and not for the praise that ensues from it. A
      cheerful giver is one who gives freely, but who, as the Gospel says,
      does not let his right hand know what his left is doing, in other words,
      giving without fanfare and without any expectation of return.

      The Apostle reminds us that we do derive spiritual benefit from our
      generosity and that by giving bountifully to others, we also receive
      bountifully from God. Charity and other forms of giving are spiritual
      actions, actions by which we acquire the Holy Spirit. The greater our
      giving, the greater our spiritual benefit from giving. Some of the
      things that diminish or even negate that spiritual benefit is to give
      only out of necessity, only when we are forced to do so, either from
      some external pressure such as shame (not wanting to seem less generous
      than our neighbor) or from some other necessity (such as needing or
      getting a ?tax break?). We also diminish the spiritual benefit of giving
      when we give ?grudgingly?, that is when our giving is ?calculated? and
      limited by what we can ?afford? to give without affecting our personal
      comfort or fortune. It is important in this case to recall the words of
      our Lord to the Apostles, ?freely you have received, freely give?. We
      should always recall that all that we possess in this world is given to
      us by God and thus we should be ready always to pass on what we have
      received.

      In order to increase the spiritual benefit of giving, we should give
      freely or bountifully, for as we heard in the epistle, ?he who sows
      bountifully, also reaps bountifully?. When we give, it is best if there
      is no limit to our willingness to share what we have. In addition to
      this limitless approach, it is also beneficial that we give voluntarily,
      according to our purpose. Giving should have no ?ulterior? motive, but
      rather should be an action undertaken for its own reason. We give, not
      that we might receive something in return, but because of the joy of
      giving. We give to others in the same way that God gives to us ? freely,
      out of His divine and limitless love and with joy to see others benefit
      from what He gives. And that expresses also another characteristic of
      true giving, that of joy. A cheerful giver is one who experiences joy in
      the act of giving and that joy is the fruit of love. The more we love
      God and are filled with His love, the more we love others (for to love
      God is to love our neighbor, even as He first loved us), and the more we
      love others, the greater our joy is when we share with them what God has
      given to us. A cheerful giver is one who gives out of love.

      To return for a moment to the fact that all we have, we have received
      from God. This is an important truth to recall, for in doing so we
      easily remember that we have nothing of our own, but we only possess
      that which God has given to us. In addition to giving that which we do
      not possess, it is also easy to give that which is not our own. Thus, if
      we constantly recall that we have nothing of our own, it is easier to
      let go of that which we seem to have and to give freely of it. If God
      has provided for us all that we need to this point, will He not continue
      to do so ? and thus there is no need to hold so tightly on to what we
      think we have. The Apostle emphasizes this also when he says that God
      makes all grace abound to us and that He is sufficient in all things for
      us. He even mentions the fact that God provides for us not only our
      daily bread but also the seed from which that bread comes and multiplies
      the fruit of that seed, enriching us in all bountifulness. There is no
      shortage when we depend on God. No matter how much we give, He always
      provides for us bountifully.

      Knowing then the value of free and generous giving, knowing that our
      generosity is an investment in our spiritual well being and that in
      return for our material giving, we receive the limitless grace of God;
      the question remains of how to give. We begin answering this question
      right where we left off ? recalling that all we have is given to us by
      God. All that we have is given to us for a purpose, and that purpose is
      our own spiritual benefit and the welfare of the Church. Our Lord is
      very clear that we should make it a priority to give to the maintenance
      of our worship ? that is to the building of the Church, both in its
      physical manifestations and in its personal manifestation. There is
      nothing more important in our lives than the life of prayer and
      therefore one of our first priorities is to insure that the communal
      prayer is provided for. When the Hebrews returned from the captivity in
      Babylon and were restored to their homes in Jerusalem, they rebuilt the
      temple even before building their own homes. Thus, our giving is
      directed toward the building and beautification of the temple. Not only
      that, we give to provide for those who will maintain and direct the
      prayer life of the temple. Now all this requires money and other
      material support true (the bills must be paid, the clergy must be
      supported, the doors must be kept open and so on) but just as important
      as the need for financial and material support is the need for giving of
      our selves. We give of our time, our energy, our labor, our skills for
      all these things are needed in the Church. There must be people to come
      and pray whenever the Church is open ? this is part of our gift, to be
      here and to participate in the services. There must be people to sing
      and chant, to invest the time and energy into learning the structure of
      the services, the various melodies and tone, even to learn how to sing
      so that you can offer your voice to God. These people do not magically
      appear ? but the choir and even the clergy are you ? you who give of
      yourselves (more than just your money) to the Church. Recall for a
      moment what we saw in our sister parish of St Silouan where one of their
      own was set apart and raised to the order of the priesthood in order to
      insure the ongoing life of prayer in the temple. This is an example for
      us and forces us to ask the question, who will we raise up from among
      ourselves (that is who will give of himself) to continue the priestly
      work here (for I will not live forever). There are also the many other
      needs that are filled by you and your participation ? the painting, the
      sewing, the baking, and so on. The temple and the life of prayer which
      fills it is one of the priorities of our giving.

      In addition to our giving at the temple is our giving of alms. We are
      called on to give to those who ask ? we are often asked to give to
      special causes ? to give to help those in need within our Church in
      other places. But also here in our own Church, we give to one another,
      we give our time, our energy, our support, our love to each other. We
      give to those here in our own city, in our own neighborhoods who come to
      us in need. We give of our money, and also of our time and our abilities.

      Generosity, charity, giving of alms ? this is one of the necessary
      characteristics of the Christian. We should all be ?cheerful givers?
      giving out of the love of God for one another which fills us. We should
      be looking for opportunities to share all that God has given us for it
      is by this giving that we receive from God His limitless and bountiful
      grace. This is a natural normal part of the life of the Christian, it is
      the means by which we are enriched by God in all things.

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Ask Fr David: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/frd_private/
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