My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
ON ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN GIVING
Our parish, Saint Andrew's is always willing to accept your financial gifts to the glory of God's Holy Church. Whether you are a 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 and Savior Jesus Christ blesses those who "love the beauty of His House." Our beloved 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 improve and maintain our facilities, as well as do our best to increase our charitable and outreach efforts.
Only with your help, and through your generosity can we truly move forward toward reaching these ever increasing goals! I am confident that all of you know by now that in order for our parish to meet its daily obligations and responsibilities, it needs $1000.00 per day. Think about this when you prepare to offer your annual stewardship, when you take a candle or when the offering tray is passed at the church services on Sunday.
PRINCIPLES FOR ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN GIVING
According to the Holy Scripture
If you are a serious Christian, you should know what the Holy Bible says about giving. One little-known reference to this principle of returning a portion of one's income to God is found in the Book of Genesis 14 (Old Testament). 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 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.
It is true that 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. The Holy Apostle Paul explains this in 2nd Corinthians 9. Saint 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 get little." Saint Paul says that your gift must come from your 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.
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. Saint Peter the Apostle 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 Malachi 1:13-14, that giving isserious 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.
When Our Savior Jesus Christ preached His wonderful 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 the advance the Kingdom of God will serve us forever in ways unexplainable in human terms. In his First Letter to Saint Timothy [6:17-19], Saint Paul reemphasizes the fleeting quality of money: "Tells 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 Christ. Many are and, in fact, most who are quickly give credit to a loving heavenly Father for their privileged station in life.
Don't be a Miser. In 1864 a young lady named Hetty Green received a bequeathed of $7.5 million and subsequently the unflattering name "The Witch of Wall Street." It time, Hetty Green managed to almost magically swell her fortune and gain notoriety as the first woman to make a splash in the Stock Exchange.
Hetty Green embodied the epitome of frugality; to call her a miser would be, well...Hetty was so cheap that she eschewed the use of soap for washing her hands, and likewise instructed her laundress to only clean the dirtiest parts of her dress. She wore the same black dress until it was threadbare, drove an ancient carriage, and subsisted mostly on 15c pies. She once spent hours searching her carriage for a stamp worth 2c.
When her son broke his leg Hetty took him to a free clinic for the poor but when they refused admittance she tried (free) home remedies. The boy lost his leg. Hetty herself suffered from a severe hernia, but refused to spend the $150 for her surgery.
Hetty died with a net worth of around $200 million (nearly $5 billion today). But she lived like a pauper, and gave nothing away. Ever.
Ned took his half of the inherited loot, and with prodigal efficiency, tried to roll Mama's corpse over in her grave. He shed cash like a deciduous money tree, spending Hetty's money on the most lavish extravagances, like a diamond encrusted privy pot.
Looming over this story, like a told-you-so specter, is the parable of the rich fool (St. Luke 12:16-21). In it, Jesus warned against the soul-numbing tendency--instinctual in mice, magpies, and men--to hoard earthly treasures in lieu of being rich toward God. The rich fool would have felt at home with Hetty as his avatar. How about you?
Give regularly. As frequently as you're saving, spending, and investing, you should be giving. Giving should be a regular part of your devotional life. However, don't expect a plaque with your name on the pew. Just give. It is important for those who give to be anonymous but as an anonymous giver, you should never hide behind the cloak of anonymity in order to be stingy and give very little or nothing.
Give sacrificially. It's not a sacrifice if it is not...you know...sacrificial.
All of you need to know, the parish council and I, are not squandering your money on foolish things. Every possible measure has been taken to use every dollar that is given to our church, prudently and carefully. However, our parish, historically, never had the luxury of having money in excess. The poor community has struggled for 90 years. How much longer?
The parish, as a parish, needs to resolve this annual financial crisis once and for all. It cannot continue like this forever! It is not impossible. Together and by the grace of God, the parish can succeed!
With love in Christ,