The Orthodox Christian is reminded on the Sunday of Orthodoxy–a Sunday dedicated to the restoration of the veneration of Icons in the Church–of the Heroes of the Faith. Those holy men and women whose lives emulated Christ’s, and who are now intercessors before Him. We are constantly reminded of these Heroes (the saints) in the icons adorning our Temples around the world.
These saints are not considered Heroes of the Faith because they only sometimes lived a life in Christ. Rather, they are celebrated and venerated because their entire life and their entire purpose became a witness to Jesus Christ. Their entire lives became one continuous Thanksgiving Offering.
Yet, so often, we do exactly this: only live part of our lives in Christ. Whether we do not keep the Fast as we should, or perhaps we do not pray often enough, our life becomes a constant struggle between the pleasures of this world and putting our treasure in heaven.
One of the key ways in which this manifests itself is the concept of “Need-based Giving.” This type of giving, according to V. Rev. Robert Holet, runs the risk of training people only to give when things get really bad. We base our financial donations to the parish on what we think the Church needs, and so we offer only some minimal amount. This type of giving is rescue giving (i.e. if the Church needs a new roof, we’ll gladly make the heroic donation to get it). This helps to fuel the ego and pride, and may in fact even lead to the sin of vainglory and self-importance. Additionally, Fr. Holet continues, “the needs-based giving mindset…actually places the parish in a position where certain serious needs (and financial shortfalls) arise in the first place!”
The Liturgical and Spiritual model of giving is different, however. Spiritual giving is THANKSGIVING based. This means that we give out of the abundance with which we have been blessed. This type of giving is biblical and healthy. When we give spiritually, our donations are not simply a sign of our benevolence toward some needy institution, but rather are a joyous expression of our thanks to God!
It is only when we have made this “first-fruits” offering that we should ALSO look to the expressed needs of the Church–giving additional assistance as we can. We don’t even have to look very far in the Scriptures (it’s in the first book: Genesis!) for examples of how to do this. Adam’s son Abel gave the best he had to offer: the unblemished lamb. Noah did likewise when he built the altar to the Lord to give thanks for his salvation. Abraham also gave an entire tenth of everything he gained to the Priest-King Melchizadek after his battle with Chedorlaomer. These weren’t needs-based offerings, but were the very joyous expressions of giving to God to which we all should aspire.
Therefore, during this Great Lenten season, if we truly want to be a hero for the Church–let us do so with Thanksgiving. Let us offer our material/financial offerings, joining them to the Sacred Offering of Bread and Wine, so that our entire life becomes a Thanksgiving Offering, just like the Heroes of the Faith!