On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 68: Acceptable Offering? (Part I)
“In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” (Genesis 4:3-4)
Many of our Orthodox parishes and missions encourage the use of festivals, food sales, and lottery-type drawings for the purpose of raising funds for the needs of the parish or mission. These types of events are, of course, inventions of human minds (taken from the experience of the world) in order to secure means without sacrifice.
What might the influence of such fundraising actions be on the youth of the Church? Seeing that such events (particularly the lottery or raffle-type events) are given approval and usage in the church, young minds might think this an interesting way to get money without work. Our young people are surrounded in temptations. Betting on bowling or football games (including the now very popular “fantasy football” that offers a million dollars a week to its winners) is surely enticing to a young mind. It seems an easier way to get money than by work.
"Games like this (including lotteries or fundraising 50/50s or raffles) are used in the church. If it’s o.k. for the church, it’s got to be o.k. with me! I’m going to help myself to this easy money.” So goes the thinking of an uncritical young mind. So he or she “invests” what little money he or she has thinking it could bring in quite a sum. It will not take long for the truth to rise to the surface. But then, it might be too late.
Why do the churches put a stamp of approval over these types of fundraising? The most common answer is: “Well, the funds are being raised for the church.” Must the churches resort to the ways of the world that cultivate the worst of human greed to support itself? One is reminded of the offering of Cain in Genesis 4. Cain’s offering was not acceptable to God and his brother Abel’s sacrifice was. Why? St. Ephrem the Syrian calls Cain’s offering an “offering of negligence.” That means Cain’s offering was not the best he had. Our offerings to God must be the best we have: offerings that come from the heart, from a willingness to sacrifice, from a desire to receive no gain through that offering.
When churches approve of raising funds promising a return of any kind (that includes buy/sell as well as lottery/raffle or any kind of monetary or other reward for giving), such means must be carefully judged.
(To be continued)
This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.
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