OrthoAnalytika

On Fostering and Defending a Culture of Cheerful Giving

St. Paul says today that we should not give grudgingly or out of coercion, but out of his heart – because God loves a cheerful giver.

It is tempting to think of this in purely utilitarian terms: if we do this, more money will be given to charity, whether that is in support of the poor, in support of evangelism, or whatever.

And it is true that this would have an effect.  But this is NOT the only – or even the main – purpose of St. Paul's teaching.

St. John Chrysostom (a great friend of the poor and admonisher of the rich);  “God appointed almsgiving not only for the nourishment of the needy but also for the benefit of the providers, and much more so for the latter than for the former.”

And it is certainly true that this will improve the disposition of the giver. Attitude may not be everything, but it is a lot; especially when it is tied to actions that benefit others.  This turns an excuse for grumbling into the exercise of virtue; of an opportunity to just dig a deeper grave to a chance to climb up just a little higher on the ladder towards perfection and lasting joy.

But even that doesn't exhaust the great benefit of cheerful giving; you see this virtue of cheerful action is generalizable past the giving of money into every action of our lives. MOREOVER, it's benefits go beyond the individuals directly involved to the culture they are a part of.

Robert Putnum: Making Democracy Work:  Culture of Trust vs. Culture of Patronage.

What would happen if we could relax and just be good to one another? If we gave without thinking of what we might get in return? If we could sacrifice without having to worry about being cheated or taken advantage of. If we could give knowing that everyone else was doing the same; and that our attitude as much as our efforts were creating an icon of the Kingdom of God here on earth?

Compare that to the opposite: Giving out of coercion, knowing that if I gave selflessly it would just disappear because others were too lazy; that …

Families and parishes are designed to be icons of the Kingdom; not of tyranny, but of cheerful giving in all things. But it can only work if there is a critical mass of people who are willing to live this way.

Axelrod “The Evolution of Cooperation” How many predators and shirkers to transform a trusting culture into the broken one?

The equivalent in parish life? A few trying to sustain everything. The temptation? USE COERSION!  Higher dues, shaming, exhaustion, “checking out”.

The real answer: cheerful giving. As individuals – always (it's the winning stragtegy no matter what – martyr or evangelist). As a parish? Coercive parishes die. Joyful parishes live. Which one?

Direct download: Homily_on_the_Culture_of_Cheerful_Giving.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:49pm EST