Gratitude Begets Generosity
Gratitude Begets Genoristy
Father Luke Veronis
Gratitude begets generosity. Authentic gratitude brings about the act of living and giving generously. When we learn to see God’s blessings all around us, in every circumstance, in every person, we develop a spirit of thanksgiving and this attitude of gratitude leads us to joyous generosity. We don’t grudgingly give because we have to, as a duty, we discover the joy of giving as a natural response to countless blessings we have received.
As the Psalmist proclaims, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all that He has done for me.” Sixty times throughout the psalms we hear prayers of thanksgiving and joyous praise in response to God’s continual blessings in our lives. It is natural, a part of who we are, to burst forth with thanksgiving when are hearts are overflowing with God’s Spirit.
Saint Paul teaches us to “Rejoice in the Lord always… give thanks in all circumstances.” The Apostle wrote to the Christians in Philippi while he himself was suffering in prison and the recipients of his letter faced uncertain persecution, and yet, he still encouraged them to “pray and supplicate with thanksgiving” and “to be content in any and all circumstances.” No matter what our circumstances, when we have the eyes to see and a heart filled with God’s Spirit, we will find countless reasons to give thanks and rejoice in the Lord.
We need to reflect thoughtfully whenever we are unwilling or even forgetful in thanking others, and in thanking God. Our inability to express gratitude reveals a spiritual illness, a heart that is too proud to realize the constant blessings that we receive from God. St. Mark the Ascetic reminds us to, “be careful because forgetfulness or laziness makes us grow unmindful of the many and great blessings God gives us, and we can pass the rest of our lives uselessly and ungratefully."
Gratitude begets generosity.
Remember the “Abrahamic blessing” - We are blessed so that we bless others! Think of all the blessings you have had in your life from your childhood to this day, and with gratitude thank God! Then, remember that our Lord doesn’t bless us so that we hold on to these blessings for ourselves. He doesn’t give us blessings to turn inward and act in a self-centered manner, holding on to the blessings for ourselves and maybe for our loved ones. He blesses us so that we can act as His ambassadors in sharing these blessings with others.
Cultivating this attitude of gratitude and realizing that authentic gratitude brings about this joyous spirit of giving helps us better understand Christ’s words “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
We discover an incredible blessing when we practice joyous generosity.
Saint John Chrysostom highlights this: “Happiness can only be achieved by transforming greed into gratitude… it is outrageous that when we enjoy God’s blessings every single day, we do not acknowledge the favor with so much as a word of thanks. Expressing gratitude confers great benefit on us. God does not need anything of ours, but we stand in need of all things from Him… Remember, the rich person is not the one who has much but the one who gives much, for what we give away we keep for eternity.”
Gratitude that leads to generosity, however, demands serious spiritual discipline. The holy triad of spiritual disciplines that Jesus taught in His famous Sermon on the Mount were Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. Everyone knows how difficult it is to maintain a serious Prayer Rule, one where we are constantly praying and connecting with God. This doesn’t come naturally but take earnest, conscious effort. The same can be said for fasting. If we try to fast every Wednesday and Friday, as well as during the four Fasting seasons throughout the church year, it takes serious determination along with God’s grace.
Almsgiving, or joyous generosity - where we act as good stewards in offering our money to the Church and its ministries, as well as to charities and to people in need – takes even more effort and determination than keeping a prayer life and a rule of fasting. Why? Because as Jesus said, “Where our treasure is, our heart will be.” For too many people, their treasure is their money and possessions, and they find great difficulty in parting with this.
This is why God gave the teaching of the Tithe to the Israelites in the Law of Moses. The Tithe is offering the first fruits of all you have, the first 10% of your blessings back to God. The Prophet Micah even criticizes the people of God for stealing when they hold back their 10% from God - “You have cheated me! You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me… Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do, I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”
We must realize that all we have – our money, our possessions, our family life, our opportunities, our health, the treasure of our faith – is a gift from God. We may have worked hard for it, but who gave us the opportunities, health, brains, and everything else we have to achieve what we have? With these many blessings, take a moment to reflect how you have blessed others. What have you given to God and His Church this year? What have you given to God through other charities? How have you helped people in need with your finances?
Gratitude begets generosity. The spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, remind us that “Gratitude goes beyond the "mine" and "thine" and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that the discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy… This spiritual discipline also means I learn to be grateful for the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections – that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment.”
Always remember that “if God does not for a moment tire of giving us good things,” as St. Nikolaj Velimirovic says, “how can we tire of thanking Him for these good things and sharing them with others?”
Gratitude begets generosity.
Gratitude brings about the act of living and giving generously. When we learn to see God’s blessings all around us, in every circumstance, in every person, we develop a spirit of thanksgiving and this attitude of gratitude leads us to joyous generosity. We don’t grudgingly give because we have to, as a duty, we discover the joy of giving as a natural response to countless blessings we have received!
Gratitude begets generosity.
IN WHOM DO WE TRUST?
Our Orthodox Faith