It’s a bit of a paradox, but the truth is Faith and Joy are gifts that can only be possessed by giving them away! Strange, isn’t it? But think about it. joy and faith are always the casualties of inattentiveness. When I stop prioritizing Faith and Joy, they diminish their presence in my life. When I focus on Faith and Joy, they grow and spread to others around me. It’s kind of a hard and fast principle, dear heart.
The truth is the things I try to “hoard” to me become chains of fear and addiction. The true wisdom of a life lived in freedom is always a life of generosity and openness.
Look at our lesson today in Romans 15:17-29:
BRETHREN, in Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that from Jerusalem and as far round as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ, thus making it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on another man’s foundation, but as it is written, “They shall see who have never been told of him, and they shall understand who have never heard of him.” This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be sped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem with aid for the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem; they were pleased to do it, and indeed – they are in debt to them, for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been raised, I shall go on by way of you to Spain; and I know that when I come to you I shall come in the fulness of the gospel of Christ.
St. Paul is letting our precious Roman Church know that he has every reason to be proud of the ministry God has given him BECAUSE he is giving his ministry away! He is purposefully sharing his faith with even those unruly Gentiles! But something else is up that Paul wants these Romans to know about!
You see, there was a severe famine going on back in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. And part of Paul’s work in traveling was to collect material help for the believers back at the Mother Church. Notice how he encourages the Roman believers to participate.
First, St. Paul emphasizes his love and care for the Roman believers. He is on his way to Spain to continue his missionary work and he plans to stop in Rome on the way there. He has wanted to come to Rome, the Imperial capital, for some time, but his work elsewhere slowed him down. But now, his love and concern for Roman believers has an added importance. Their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem are suffering!
Next, St. Paul tells the Roman believers he’s headed to Jerusalem to deliver the gifts of mercy other areas he’s served in have given him to share with their suffering brethren in Jerusalem. He strongly suggests by this that the capital Christians should also send aid! Is this emotional manipulation? Of course it is, and good for him! You see, it’s always important to spur each of us on and remind us all of our responsibility to care for one another. And that’s because we are so forgetful and inattentive.
Finally, St. Paul tells the Romans that this sense of responsibility is an actual “debt!” Wow! Really? A debt? Yes, a debt. Because we owe a debt of gratitude to those who shared the faith with us in the first place. And that spiritual benefit means that material blessings should be shared as well!
Today, are you awake to the importance of your faith? Do you value the faith enough to see that spiritual blessings translates into physical responsibility and stewardship? If you are ever going to truly be attentive to the actual worth of your faith and pass on that worth to your children, they are going to have to see you making choices about your material wealth that witnesses to your spiritual treasure! It’s all part of being Orthodox on Purpose!