Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
During this Lenten season it is common to talk about spiritual matters: how to fast, what to eat and what not to eat, how to pray, how many prostration to make… And this is fine and should really be of genuine concern for all of us. It is Great Lent, the time when the Holy Church does command us to keep fast, to abstain from some sorts of food, to limit quantities, to intensify our ascetic efforts and to avoid activities which are not profitable for our souls and for our salvation. And if we declare, “I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church…,” we must do our best to observe the commandments of the Holy Church. There is no alternative to this.
However, today I would like to bring to your attention a matter which is less popular and which is very rarely seen and understood as the spiritual problem it is.
Money. Money as a commodity we use as a donation in church on Sunday mornings. We all drop our envelopes in the basket in a similar manner though very rarely we agree on why we do this and how it should be done.
The word “donation” comes from the noun “gift.” Hence, the free nature of this giving is at its very root. And nowhere is this freedom more important than in the Christian Church. Our freedom-cherishing God Himself gave us everything, beginning with life itself, freely. He did it, according to the Church, simply out of His love. And, in love and with love, He created the whole world — for us. Everything in creation is beautiful and perfect by design.
As believers, we Christians very naturally will recognize the Creator’s hand and will want to express our gratitude to Him. How can we do this? What can I, a creature, give to my Author that He does not already have? Really, nothing. Absolutely nothing.
What I can do, is to acknowledge this very fact — that everything I have has as its origin the very Source of Life, God. To Him, I offer first of all myself, my love, confessing Him to be my Master, the Lord. To Him, I also offer a token of that which is already His, in admission of this very fact. And this is what I put in the church’s plate on Sunday mornings.
Now, this token, from the very onset of our faith was instituted as a tithe, a tenth part of everything we received from God. That was the Old Testament Divine Law, and it remains the ideal for us, Christians. There is simply no justifiable excuses for us to drop in the plate a dollar or two on Sunday morning: no one in our community lives on $520.00 or $1,040.00 a year, nobody. And if we still hesitate to donate more, it can be explained only by a lack of understanding.
Very often parishioners understand their giving as a sort of payment for the services the church provides to them. In all honestly some of us give money to “support the church,” an honorable intention, but not in agreement with the teachings of the Orthodox Church. Just listen to the Divine Liturgy! After the gifts are brought, the priest, on behalf of the entire congregation, offers them to God proclaiming, “Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee in behalf of all and for all!” We do not claim to be giving the gifts to His church, to the building fund, to the charities, seminary, to our bishop, priest, plumber, to the heating oil company… you name it. We give our gifts to God.
If we give our gifts to God as we determine in our hearts, cheerfully, with love and appreciation for all the good He has done and is still doing for us (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), the Lord will also accept them with love, cheerfully, and in His love will bless our offerings and return them to us already sanctified and multiplied like those five breads and two fishes… Then all our worries and concerns will shrink and be gone for God does not put to shame those who put their trust in Him.
March 1, 1990