By Henri J. M. Nouwen
Opening thoughts and basis for discussion
Our purpose as Orthodox Christians is a constant learning on how to welcome God into our Lives to live and work through us.
Giving is the third leg in the tree legged stool that is our spiritual life; prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Almsgiving is giving of our times, talents and blessings that have been given to us.
What is giving?
Giving is not only giving of our time and talents but our real gift is not so much what we can do, but who we are. Who can we be for each other. Our greatest gift is to give of ourselves…our joy of living, our own inner peace, our own silence and solitude, our own sense of well-being.
Our gifts are more important than our talents
We may only have a few talents, but we have many gifts. Our gifts are the many ways in which we express our humanity. They are part of who we are: friendship, kindness, patience, joy, peace, forgiveness, gentleness, love, hope, trust, and many others. These are the true gifts we have to offer each other.
As the Beloved Children of God, we are called to become bread for each other – bread for the world. The spiritual life is like the miracle of the Feeding the Five Thousand (Matt 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15). Is not our lives but a grain of sand that we must also trust to multiply itself and be able to fulfill the needs of countless people?
The trust in one’s fruitfulness emerges from a humble spirit.
Living in the world but not of the world
“The world is evil only when you become its slave.”
“The great struggle facing us is not to leave the world, to reject our ambitions and aspirations, or to despise money, prestige, or success, but to claim our spiritual truth and to live in the world as someone who doesn’t belong to it.”
Got not only says “You are my beloved” but he also asks us “Do you love me?” and offers us countless chances to say “Yes.” This is the spiritual life, saying “Yes” to God in all his works, to our inner truth.
Living the spiritual life means living as one unified reality. The forces of darkness are the forces that split, divide, and set in opposition. The forces of light unite. Literally, the word “diabolic” means dividing. The demon divides; the Spirit unites.
The purpose of our life is to lead us back to the “place” we come from, the “place” of God.
John Chrysostom gives us good advice from the 4th century.
“Some people see the houses in which they live as their kingdom; and although in their minds they know that death will one day force them to leave, in their hearts they feel they will stay forever. They take pride in the size of their houses and the fine material with which they are built. They take pleasure in decorating their houses with bright colors, and in obtaining the best and most solid furniture to fill the rooms. They imagine that they can find peace and security by owning a house whose walls and roof will last for many generations. We, by contrast, know that we are only temporary guests on earth. We recognize that the houses in which we live serve only as hostels on the road to eternal life. We do not seek peace or security from the material walls around us or the roof above our heads. Rather we want to surround ourselves with a wall of divine grace; and we look upward to heaven as our roof. And the furniture of our lives should be good works, performed in a spirit of love.”
Chrysostom, On Living Simply, pg 11