On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 58: Giving Freely

In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 RSV)

The Holy Apostle St. Paul was untiring in his efforts to inspire among the converts a desire to do exceptional things for the cause of Christ and His Holy Church. In speaking to the elders of the church in Ephesus about his work among them when he founded the church there, St. Paul was quite clear. “I’ve showed you what to do by doing it myself: help the weak; give!”

Further, St. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth concerning the collection for the poor and needy: “…He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 RSV). Both of these stewardship “sermons” by St. Paul tell the giver to give freely.

The example St. Paul gives to the Corinthian church is that of the churches in Macedonia (northern Greece). These Macedonian Christians (and perhaps believers everywhere in St. Paul’s churches) were not rich in worldly goods. However, their hearts overflowed with love for God, and they gave freely for the support of the Church. When St. Paul wanted to show the Corinthians how to give, this is what he said: “We want you to know, brethren, about the grace of God which has been shown in the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints…” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4).

The willingness to sacrifice (with liberality, St. Paul says) on the part of the Macedonian believers was the result of a whole life given to God and His Church. St. Paul continues in his writing to the Corinthians: “(The Macedonians) first … gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5 RSV). It was not necessary for St. Paul to ask, or beg, the Macedonian Christians to give. They rejoiced in the privilege of denying themselves even of necessary things in order to supply the needs of others.

Such is the earliest Church’s example of understanding stewardship as a Way of Life.

This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

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