Most people want to believe the best of themselves. We have an idealized image of ourselves in our brain, and sometimes this “image” is so different from the reality that it is actually a danger to our spiritual maturity. But the struggle to embrace reality is filled with difficulties and dead ends. We were meant to be set free from delusion. And this freedom was also meant to be shared with those around us in a paradoxical truth that we can only keep this freedom by giving it away!
One of the greatest enemies of our spiritual freedom and even our political freedom is the cancer of greed. THE quickest way to become slaves to our selfishness is to fail to actively develop the spiritual discipline of generosity. We all know that generosity is always best. We KNOW it. You know it. Don’t you?
Look at our lesson today in Matthew 10:1, 5-8:
At that time, Jesus called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.”
The Lord instructs His disciples to get out there and start spreading spiritual freedom around to everyone. Notice, first He gives them the power to do this work and then He tells them to get to it. But He ends His instructions with a phrase that reveals the heart of the matter AND the path to continue having the power to do this work of spiritual freedom. He tells them “You received without paying, give without pay.”
A spirit of generosity will never be truly present based on sentimentality or pity. Those emotions and motivations can and do create the opposite effect – bitterness, and resentment. No, true generosity is always based on the sure knowledge that what I have has been a blessing from God. Even the energy and intellect I possess to be productive and achieve is given to me, not earned! I certainly can and should develop my gifts, but even that strength to do that is a gift from God! Generosity will only exist in a heart convinced that “I am a debtor to love.” The disciples were meant to do all this good work based on the eternal truth that what I have been given MUST be given away if I am ever going to enjoy what I’ve been given! In fact, I won’t be able to keep what I’ve been given if I don’t give it away!
It is the paradox of true generosity that it is giving away what I’ve been given that allows me to enjoy what I’ve been given. This is especially true of our Orthodox Faith. If you leave Orthodoxy in some ghetto of your own choosing, you will find in just a few generations that your children and their children are no longer active in the Church.
In a world where “he who dies with the most toys wins” mentality tends to dominate, this mindset of generosity seems naive and foolish. To be sure, it does appear that way. But if I am ever going to be free, truly, spiritually, free, I am going to have to abandon the hoarder mentality and realize that freedom isn’t free. The price I must pay for my freedom is a willingness to be generous. Without this central principle in my life, I will remain a slave.
Today, are you a generous person? It is insightful that when you hear this, your first thought will be about money. And that is a primary icon of our generosity. But I have witnessed very poor people being generous; generous with their time, their love, their patience, and their understanding. This spirit of generosity will and must certainly affect your pocketbook, but that is only because it has first transformed your heart and mind. Today, you have freely received, freely give. Not an option, dear one. Freedom isn’t free. Today, BE generous and you will be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. O Lord of Mercy, Your grace is immeasurable. Your mercy is beyond understanding. You are kinder to us at Your angriest than one who loves me is at their kindest. You are generous because You are humble AND You are not afraid or self-conscious. And You call me to be generous like You are generous. Lord, I confess I cannot. I am too gripped by score-keeping and too afraid I won’t have enough for myself. Please help me overcome these fears by learning to depend only on You and You will care for me. Amen