I’ve heard this all my life “God will provide.” I remember hearing it when me and my brother and my mom were near poverty when I was young, and He did. I remember hearing it when I watched my family go through a shattering crisis, and He did. I remember hearing it again when I was terrified at the consequences of leaving the religious world of my youth, of leaving the stable income, retirement benefits, and health insurance for the unknown world of our Orthodox Church, and He did.
In fact, I remember saying it to people in similar situations facing the scary moments when life offers up challenges. But is it a “good” saying?
Perhaps, but there is also a danger here. And that danger is forgetting that God does provide, but He uses His people to do it!
Look at our lesson today in Luke 8:1-3:
At that time Jesus went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
The Lord and His disciples were about doing what they were called to do: bringing Good News about the kingdom of God. Surrounding them were their traveling companions who believed in their mission so much that they provided for the disciples’ needs “out of their means.” Of course, you know what that means, don’t you? Yeah, they paid for everything the Lord and His disciples needed to keep doing the ministry they were doing. They gave FROM gratitude and not merely to need!
We must remember, dear ones, that seeing the need and offering sentiments while withholding the remedy is only half of Christianity. It is so very good that we feel compassion, sympathy, and even empathy for those in need, but that is just the “narthex” of faith. If we stop there a dangerous pattern gets set in our lives. We fail to see ourselves as God’s hands and feet in the earth. St. Paul calls us the Body of Christ. We are His continued physical presence in the world and we are how He Provides! After all, each week God feeds us with the precious Eucharist. He takes our work, our “means” of Bread and Wine; bread we have mixed, kneaded, shaped, sealed, and baked; and He fills up our work, our “means” with Himself and “provides” for our salvation. The truth is that’s what God does with all the offerings we bring to Him to provide for the work of the faith! That’s why being stingy creates such a small soul in a man! It is only giving from gratitude that liberates me from the smallness of giving based on my needs and sets me free to give from a heart grateful to God for all He has given me!
This liberty of giving from gratitude means I release my control over my possessions as if they were “my” property. I release the delusionary idea that I am in control of my life. No, my life was given to me and now I am called to mimic the generosity of God, My Creator, and LifeGiver. He gave, running the risk that those who received would misuse His gifts, but He gave anyway because He loved me. Now I am called to give of myself based, not on some arbitrary standard but on the standard of God’s generosity!
Today, as we celebrate St. Philip and his ministry, do you believe in the continued ministry of Christ in His Church to provide for the disciples’ needs “out of” YOUR means? Do you see yourself as a real member of the Body of Christ, or has your life of faith become more spectator? The truth is we have all the resources we need to accomplish everything the Church should and is called to accomplish. We have never had a “money” problem. Our challenge has always been a “faith” and “love” problem. All the “means” to accomplish everything the Lord has called us to achieve is in the hands of those who claim to be Christians, and yet perhaps today is the day to reevaluate my own actual confidence that “God will Provide” and risk believing the actual truth: I AM part of His work to provide! I am Orthodox on Purpose!