Thoughts at the beginning of a journey
a calling to the faithful for generosity to the Holy Church
Since 1989, many profound political, economical, social, financial and spiritual changes have taken place in Romania. The Church of Christ has also experienced the effect of these changes. Her duty is to adapt to the present situation in Romania, and the duty of those of us who live abroad is to do more than ever before to help Her, and to support Her, no matter how hard our circumstances are. Our brothers from home are looking to us for help, and we should not hesitate a moment in offering it.
The Church is called to fulfill her three fundamental roles: to serve Christ by serving the faithful (this is Christian charity), to preach the Word of God, and to impart the Holy Spirit to the faithful through the Holy Mysteries, thus heeding to the commandment of Christ "Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..."(Matthew 28:19). The faithful are called to be coworkers in this holy task, by supporting the Church, and contributing to the fulfillment of Her role.
Ever since 1987, our community in Los Angeles has been planning to build a new Holy Temple; its actual construction will begin in the near future. At the beginning of this "new journey," it is important that each of us knows what the Holy Scriptures teaches us regarding our personal material and financial responsibilities towards the building of the Temple of God.
(A detailed article about the necessity of completing this project - "The building of a new church - divine blessing, holy duty" (1987) can also be found in this publication).
If we study the Old Testament regarding the Holy Tabernacle (Exodus - Chap. 26, Numbers - Chap 4, Leviticus - Chaps. 4 and 9) we notice that it was first necessary to acquire good workmen to build it, have priests to perform the service in it, and secure the material support of the whole people.
Today the steps to build a temple remain unchanged. In order to attain these Divine goals those involved in such projects need the help of spiritually devoted men and the material support of the faithful. As much as we would like to avoid mentioning it, without material support we practically cannot go further. The work of God can be hindered if we are not aware of the necessity of financing specific projects. Today, when we all look forward to the beginning of the "Building project of the new church and of the Romanian cultural center in Sunland, California, " this awareness is more necessary then ever. It is thus our calling to be generous and to give joyfully from our material and financial goods.
With what we have we can contribute to:
a). Continuos support for the Church through regular donations (including the Pledge Program)
b). Gathering special funds in the next 5 years for the completion of the construction of the new church and Romanian cultural center.
c). Strengthening the religious education in the parish through the Sunday school and the English service in the chapel.
d). Helping all those in material need, the poor families, the newcomers, the orphanages and the nursing homes for the elders in Romania.
e). Financing camps for the youth, for educational and religious purposes, such as the summer camps at Vatra, the actions initiated by the LAROY, etc.
In order to do this we need to change our mentality regarding generosity. Those who are afraid of being generous claim that the ones in need should live by faith. This affirmation is only half true. As somebody was saying : "So that some can live by faith it is needed that others must give faithfully". And how many of us do give faithfully ? Very few ! I think it is time to seriously analyze ourselves regarding our giving, so that when we give we should not do it with avarice.
What is generosity ?
According to the Oxford English Thesaurus, generosity is synonymous with charity, benevolence, philanthropy, kindness. From a biblical perspective generosity is an act of worship, through which we honor God when we distribute some of our goods (2 Cor. 9:11-14). Generosity is thus a side of our spiritual life.
God is the owner of all things. "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and all who live in it" (Ps. 24:1). We are through His grace administrators of the goods that He has temporarily granted us. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that "we brought nothing in this world, and we can take nothing out of it" (1 Timothy 6:7). What is required from us is to be found faithful in the stewardship entrusted to us. God will judge us one day for everything we do with our money, our time, our talents, our spiritual gifts and all the things we received from Him.
When we give, God is thanked and glorified (2 Cor. 9:11-14). When we help our brothers, we offer them a strong motivation to bring thanks to God. How thankful was Saint Paul when the Philippians sent him a gift through Epaphroditus. What about us ? Did anyone offer thanks to God by our generosity ? To give is a spiritual act; the Bible shows that between the spiritual and the material there is no separation, but a close connection - "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also"(Matthew 6:21).
How much should we give ?
This is a question which gives rise to many possible answers. Some say that we need to tithe, some say we need to give more than 10%, and others who give little or not at all say that we should give as much as our heart tells us. Let us not forget that the heart can cheat us (Jeremiah 17:9). The fact that in the New Testament there is no required percentage or amount for the donations makes many faithful to give extremely little or not at all. However, not to honor God with a fraction of our income is a sin. (Malachi 3:9) We find a few criteria in the New Testament to guide us in the way we should give:
- The donations must be made generously (2 Cor. 9:5-6);
- The gift must be costly to us (2 Cor.8:3);
- To give is an individual decision. (2 Cor. 9:7).
How should we give ?
As we mentioned before, when there is an opportunity for being generous, some faithful give almost nothing. This is due to a feeling of self-pity, born in their selfishness, which fouls them into believing that they don't have anything to spare. We Romanians, often bring up the excuse that we are poorer than others, and that we don't have anything to spare. However, there are many people in other countries who are in a much worse situation than we are, and yet give. Wasn't widow who gave her last money to the Temple poorer then us ? The churches of Macedonia are a suggestive example of generosity. The Apostle Paul writes that: "their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity" (2 Cor. 8:2).
Let us analyze how the churches of Macedonia gave:
- with generosity even though they were poor (2 Cor. 8:2);
- with joy (2 Cor. 8:2);
- willingly (2 Cor. 8:3);
- sacrificing (2 Cor. 8:2,3);
- without avarice (2 Cor. 9.5);
- without sorrow (2 Cor. 9:7);
- without being forced (2 Cor. 9:7);
The positive attitude of these faithful regarding generosity was due to the fact that they had a strong connection with the Lord Jesus Christ, which made them:
- give themselves to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5);
- consider generosity as a mean to test their love for their neighbors (2 Cor. 8:8);
- be profoundly motivated by the example of the Lord Jesus (2 Cor 8:9);
The churches of Macedonia thus showed that they acknowledged the Lordship of Christ in their life and that they were pure and honest in their love.
Is generosity followed by blessings ?
The answer to this question is also found in the Holy Scripture, and is due to perhaps strengthen our hope.
a) Those who give are loved by God, Who "loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).
b) Establishing a close relationship with God brings blessing (Malachi 3:10). Rich blessings come from the fact that we give to God what is actually His.
c) The generous and joyful offering will motivate others to give too. (2 Cor. 9:1-2). If as parent one is generous, the child will follow on the same path. Not only children, but other faithful will also increase in their generosity.
d) The generous gift will move God's heart. He will entrust us with even more (2 Cor. 9:8-11). Many times we are not prosperous because we are not generous. If we are selfish, God will not open to us the "bounds of heavens". We need to cultivate and to increase our generosity so that God can entrust us with more.
e) Generosity brings feelings of fulfillment and contentment when it is done for the Lord.
If the Holy Spirit, through the words written here, has revealed to you the sin of avarice, it is probably time to confess your sin, to ask God for forgiveness, and to pray Him to strengthen you in your resolve to give generously. This will help the Church of Christ fulfill Her duty, and have a greater impact in the society; it will moreover help us to gather more closely together as Orthodox Romanian-Americans in these lands, becoming thus true "Apostles of Christ in the New World".
Appreciating your generosity, we remain in love your intercessors to Christ the Lord.
The Clergy, the Parish Council and the Building Committee of the New Church.