“Giving and offering are a type of worship. In truth, they are an essential part of our worship. For when we stand before the altar, we give ourselves to God – that He may give Himself to us.”(1) In the form of the Eucharist, do we receive this blessing. Thus in our free will giving of ourselves do we also receive. But without the giving, there can be no receiving. “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”(2)
“Let us examine the Eucharist – the body and blood of the Holy Liturgy. For this Holy of Holies to take place, we must first give to God. That is, we must first bring the wheat as flour, and the grapes as wine.”(3) We then make an offering to God, that He may descend down and bless our offering. Giving is an essential part of worship.
As one example, look to how many families we have in St Marina (400+) versus how much we collect in donations each month (±$40,000), a tithes total equal to approximately 40 families.“Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”(4)Another example, can be seen on how much food we throw away after the Agape meal on Sundays. If calculated, it could be enough to support the income needed for another church. So much food goes to waste, how it could feed another church or even another community of families. This hurts terribly.
“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” (5) It is not the money that I want your focus on, but the action of generously giving. These are the fruits St. Paul is speaking about. For when you give freely, the Lord’s blessing flow through you. But when you shut up the door, the flow of God’s Grace is too shut up. The purposeful life of a Christian is to be Christ-like and He gave freely of Himself. And if the church is starving, then too are the members of the church also starving – and how can the church help? The tithe is a minimum we ask that you give, not that we have in abundance, but that we as a family have the capabilities to help those in need.
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also. On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper.” (6) I would like to give two examples of activities I would like to see the families doing.
1. On the altar you have at home, place a jar and let each one contribute to it daily. Teach the children too, to take a small percentage of their allowance, or money earned, and place it in the jar. This becomes a family effort, a family worship, a family offering. Then, coming on Sunday, bring the jar as a family.
2. Is for the head of the household, who dedicates their tenth, rather than just write a check for the total amount, give a small portion in cash and let the children give it. So the gift of giving is through the family net as a whole.
There too is another perspective I would like for you to consider, the tithe is not only in cash, but also 10% of yourself. With 168 hours in a week, if each member of a household could give 10% of their time – 17 hours a week, imagine what we could accomplish. And this time is not to be mingled with the liturgy (for in truth that is for ourselves, not the church), but dedicate 17 hours a week would help the church immensely.
The bottom line is there should not be a rich or a poor within our church. There should not be a needy and a plentiful – whereby one struggles just to get by, while another family is throwing food away. We are all rich in Christ, given the fact that we all partake of the holy body and blood of our lord Jesus Christ with the same spoon – both wealthy and poor alike. There exists no class system in the body of the church. The arm does not claim superior to the eye, nor does the foot suffer while the knee rejoices in abundance. The church is the body of Christ, because Christ has one body. So I urge all of you to do your part.
Glory be to God, Amen.
1.Based on a presentation given by Amba Youssef at the 2008 St. Verena Charity Banquet
2. 2Corinthians 9:6
3. Based on a sermon by Father Kyrillos at The Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Marina
4. 2Corinthians 9:7
5. Philippians 4:17
6. 1Corinthians 16:1-2