Normal Orthodoxy Produces GenerosityFr. Barnabas Powell
You may have seen a trend this week in our daily devotionals. I am using the phrase “Normal Orthodoxy” on purpose because we live in an age and society where our faithful struggle with a lack of robust catechesis. What too many think of as “normal” Orthodoxy is too small. So, I’m trying to reset my own thinking about Normal Orthodoxy and start setting the bar higher for myself and for you, God willing.
And one area where we’ve set the bar entirely too low in too many Orthodox homes and parishes is understanding how our Orthodox Faith is supposed to practice radical generosity. It’s the reason why at the very center of our Divine Liturgy is the Eucharist. We all know that the word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word for “thank you.” At the very center of our worship of God, the very center of our theology, and at the very heart of what it means to be Orthodox is the charism of Generosity. God is generous with us in that He has given us His Only Son! God generously provides for us and loves us more than anything else. God is so generous that He gives us everlasting life, and we will only be able to truly enjoy His generosity by becoming generous just like Him!
Look at our lesson today in Luke 8:1-3:
At that time Jesus went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
The Lord and His disciples were about doing what they were called to do: bringing Good News about the kingdom of God. Surrounding them were their traveling companions who believed in their mission so much that they provided for the disciples’ needs “out of their means.” Of course, you know what that means, don’t you? Yeah, they paid for everything the Lord and His disciples needed to keep doing the ministry they were doing. They gave FROM gratitude and not merely to need!
We must remember, dear ones, that seeing the need and offering sentiments while withholding the remedy is only half of Christianity. It is so very good that we feel compassion, sympathy, and even empathy for those in need, but that is just the “narthex” of faith. If we stop there a dangerous pattern gets set in our lives. We fail to see ourselves as God’s hands and feet in the earth. St. Paul calls us the Body of Christ. We are His continued physical presence in the world and we are how He Provides! After all, each week God feeds us with the precious Eucharist. He takes our work, our “means” of Bread and Wine; bread we have mixed, kneaded, shaped, sealed, and baked; and He fills up our work, our “means” with Himself and “provides” for our salvation. The truth is that’s what God does with all the offerings we bring to Him to provide for the work of the faith! That’s why being stingy creates such a small soul in a man! It is only giving from gratitude that liberates me from the smallness of giving based on my needs and sets me free to give from a heart grateful to God for all He has given me!
This liberty of giving from gratitude means I release my control over my possessions as if they were “my” property. I release the delusionary idea that I am in control of my life. No, my life was given to me and now I am called to mimic the generosity of God, My Creator, and LifeGiver. He gave, running the risk that those who received would misuse His gifts, but He gave anyway because He loved me. Now I am called to give of myself based, not on some arbitrary standard but on the standard of God’s generosity!
Today, do you believe in the continued ministry of Christ in His Church to provide for the disciples’ needs “out of” YOUR means? Do you see yourself as a real member of the Body of Christ, or has your life of faith become more spectator? The purposeful and attentive development of your own generosity is absolutely key to your spiritual maturity and spiritual freedom from the bondage of a too-small Faith! When you learn the joy and freedom of giving FROM gratitude instead of merely TO need, then you can say “I am Orthodox on Purpose!”
P.S. Dear Lord of Abundant Mercy and Unending Generosity, I am easily made a slave by my possession. I am easily overcome by a fear of the future and by worry about how I will provide for my family. And when I fall into that trap, I find myself making excuses for my lack of generosity. Lord, please forgive me for forgetting how You have always provided. You have always been good to me. Help me be free from the petty smallness of my fear and be free to cheerfully give like You give. I don’t want to be a slave anymore! Amen