by Katherine Baine
Each of us has our reasons for giving to the Church, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I had to grapple with discovering what those were for myself. Before pledges were turned in at the beginning of 2007, a few members were invited to share each Sunday about Stewardship and why they give to the Church. It was a beautiful look into the hearts of our family. Just listening gave me a greater insight into such a very important part of our church involvement. As my Sunday to speak steadily approached, I realized I needed to give some serious thought to such a serious subject. Why do I give?
For years, my giving had been a mirror of what my parents had done. I watched them drop the envelope in the tray each week and followed their example, never asking why or even feeling the need to question. It was as normal as getting up for church every Sunday morning. When I began working and going to church on my own, giving was the natural thing to do: You go to church, you give. I was going to church, so I gave. Simple. Natural.
But that really isn’t a reason, is it? I found myself forced to stop and sincerely reflect on something that had become a routine habit and consider the meaning behind it. Why do I give? After major selfreflection, along with some reading and talks with friends, I gained a much deeper understanding of my answer to this question and what it really means.
A place of peace to calm the madness
During my reflection, the first thing I discovered was that it was for purely selfish reasons and what the Church provides for me. In 1963, a movie came out called It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. In the comedy, a group of strangers witness a terrible accident on a desert highway. The dying crash victim reveals in his last words that he has buried a stolen fortune of $350,000. The witnesses can’t agree on how to share the money so a wild and frenzied chase ensues for the hidden treasure. Everyone is looking out for himself and will do whatever it takes to get that money. The movie epitomizes greed and pandemonium.
Sometimes I feel like our lives can resemble that chaos. The madness of the daily grind and our complicated schedules demands so much from us mentally, physically, and spiritually, I can sometimes lose my bearings and things can feel out of control. Then, when I finally do get home and turn on the news I realize it’s not just me, but the whole world has gone completely nuts.
But thank God, there’s a place we can go to get away from that madness, a place where we can find solace and peace. That place is the Church. If we can manage to turn down or even mute the noise of our lives and let the calm of Church take over our senses, there’s a soothing peace to be experienced. However, it’s not just peace and quiet that we find. We find Christ Himself. It’s a place where we can put away our daily cares, our fears, and our worries. A place where we can clear out the clutter from our souls and let the beauty and wisdom of the prayers and the holiness of Communion refill us, rejuvenate us, refocus us, and renew us every week. For that brief time, we’re in Heaven. I’ve never experienced that feeling anywhere else but an Orthodox Church. It’s always been a refuge for me no matter where I’ve been.
Church — Heaven on Earth
St. John of Kronstadt says this about the Church:
“In the Church are all our sweetest hopes and expectations, our peace, our joy, together with cleansing and sanctification. It is there that the truth of the future resurrection, of the victory over death, is so often announced. Who that loves life would not love the Church with all his heart. Everything that is best, most exalted, most precious, holy, and wise, is found in the Church. In the Church is the ideal of mankind … The Church is Heaven on Earth.”
I want to be a part of that. I want to give to that. I want to contribute in some way either through my time, talents, or treasure, so that it continues for future generations, for my own children, the way it is here for us now. This is what I want to commit to and help in some small way to grow. The Church is our family, and we want the best for our family. When I give to the Church, I feel like I’m helping towards what is right and good. And we’re all doing it together, contributing towards a common goal because we are the body of the Church.
God — the ultimate giver
But the Church is not made up of our money. As St. John Chrysostom says, “Church is made up of the souls of human beings.” So it’s really not about me or my money. It’s so much more than my small contribution, because what I give is going to pale in comparison to what God has already done for me.
There’s something that Bishop BASIL always says that has always stayed in my heart: “You can’t out-give God.” Even when I do give things to God, He gives them back. A priest put it this way:
“As we give ourselves to God, the result will be similar to what happens in the Eucharist. We offer bread and wine and the Lord consecrates and blesses these gifts and returns them as the body and blood of His son. The owner returns what is given even better than before. The same will happen in our lives. As we offer ourselves, the Lord will bless and consecrate our lives.”
So when we come together as a family and offer our combined sacrifice, we are really coming together to sanctify the rest of our blessings that God has given to us in the first place. Everything we have is because of Him. He either gave us the ability to get it, or He put someone in our lives to help us.
Think, for a moment, of what God gives to us out of His endless love. He freely gave us His one and only son. We hear this hundreds of times a year, but as many times as I hear it, I know I’ll never fully grasp the pure love behind such a perfect gift.
This is pure love. It’s a love I can’t understand. And yet this is what He gave for us. It was only after careful thought and deep reflection that I came to this most basic realization of why I give: God asks us to give because He is first a giver. And no matter what I do in return, just as Bishop BASIL says, I’ll never be able to out-give God.
Courtesy of the
March 2007 issue of The Word magazine.