Giving freely because of Love

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Giving freely because of Love
Saturday of the 10th Week after Pentecost
31 July, 2010
Romans 15:30-33 ; Matthew 17:24-18:4


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The words of the Apostle today are important for us to remember. As he was preparing to go on his way to Jerusalem, he was in danger in a number of ways. He was certainly not all that well understood by many, and not accepted by some amongst the people in Jerusalem who had not yet had their eyes and hearts opened about the way in which the Gospel could possibly spread so far beyond the Jewish people themselves. He was asking the people around him to pray for him so that God would help him and protect him.

As we know, it is important to pray for people whom we love and for people who ask us to pray for them. It is also important for us to understand that the apostles did the same. They asked for prayers for each other ; they asked their people to pray for them, as people do now. We all ask each other to pray for us and to invoke God’s protection and His love upon us. These prayers do not go into nothingness. Our prayers, in fact, are effective. We pray and ask the Lord to look after this person, or that person because we love. We do it out of love. The Lord hears the expression of our love.

In praying for someone else, it is important to remember that we do not have to say to the Lord : “Please do this and this and this”. The Lord knows very well what to do. Rather, we pour out our hearts to Him and say : “Lord, I love this person. Protect and save this person”. We can say a little bit to Him. He wants us to say these things to Him. However, we do not have to think that we need to analyse the situation of this person and ask the Lord to act only in this way or that way (as I have heard people do). We are not psychoanalysts ; we are not life-analysts – we are people who love. However, if we know of a specific hurt or a specific need, we can express that to the Lord. He does not need our analysis because He knows everything. What He wants from us is the expression of love and the pouring out of care on the other.

The pouring out of love can only have its source in the Lord Himself, the Source of love. We owe Him everything. Therefore, unlike the temple tax which is being exacted from all males aged twenty years and above, every human being, without distinction, owes this everything to the Source of love. That is why we have been exhorted to give, and why we do give, therefore, at least one-tenth of our income to the Lord. We make this offering out of love, not out of compulsion. It is important that it be a free offering from our hearts, in gratitude to the Lord. Otherwise, if the giving is in the spirit of the temple tax (that is, for the obligatory maintenance of the worship in the Temple), then our mentality would be the same as it would be towards those collecting taxes on behalf of the emperor or the government.

The collectors of the temple tax were approaching the Apostle Peter, and the first thing that they ask him is : “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax ?” Already they are assuming, just like that, that He is a tax dodger. It is important for us to remember that we, leaping to conclusions with each other, can do the same. We have to be careful how we speak. We do not want, like these collectors, to be sowing seeds of doubt or casting aspersions automatically on someone we may not even know. We have to be careful about how we live and talk in our lives. The Apostle Peter responds by saying : “Yes”. To make it patently clear to the apostle, our Saviour says : “‘What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?’” The apostle rightly answers : “‘From strangers’”. Our Saviour says to him : “‘Then the sons are free’”. When He is saying this, He is reminding the apostle and us that we are the children of our heavenly Father and citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is important that we know that we are free.

Our giving in the Kingdom as citizens of the Kingdom must be free, voluntary, without constraint, and not exacted by ecclesiastical authorities as if it were a tax. Our Saviour underlines this by saying : “‘Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first’”. The exact amount of money is found in the mouth of the fish, and so the money is given for the two of them to the collectors of the temple tax. Everyone is content. The temple tax collectors receive their money, and the apostle understands that he, as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, is voluntarily making a contribution for the maintenance of the Temple and the worship of God. In this way he is fulfilling his responsibility freely. We do not need to do things with the spirit of a slave who is afraid of everything. Rather we do things voluntarily and freely because we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

We are standing now in the Kingdom of Heaven, in the Temple of the Lord, in the presence of the same Saviour, and in the presence of our Heavenly Father also, as we offer up our worship. Let us ask the Lord to help us remember who we are, to Whom we belong, and what things come first as we pass through our lives. Let us ask Him to give us the strength to do things always with love, with joy, voluntarily and without fear, and in everything to glorify our Saviour Jesus Christ, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.