This is part of a series of articles on pursuing virtue. There are many virtues that Orthodox Christians should be working to attain. We will be focusing on the seven capital virtues mentioned in “the Pocket Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians.” As the book mentions, each virtue is the positive counterpart of a grievous sin. In order for us to grow in theosis, we must not only resist and repent from the sins in our life, but we must also desire and labor to attain the virtues. Our goal is for each of these articles to be a beginning, a place to help us start learning more about each virtue as we pursue it. May the Lord have mercy on us and grant us grace as we pursue these virtues!
The second virtue listed in the “Pocket Prayer Book” is the virtue of liberality. What exactly does that mean? The Free Dictionary.com offers a few definitions, including “The quality or state of being liberal or generous.” That is the meaning on which we will focus, for generosity is the virtuous antidote to the sin of greed. Indeed, the best way that we can struggle against greed, or “too great a desire for money or worldly goods,” is to respond instead with generosity, or “being liberal in giving”.
Fr. George Morelli, in his article “Living as a Christian in a Post-Christian World” (Orthodoxy Today.com, see link below) suggests that liberality is how we demonstrate St. Paul’s admonishment in 1 Cor. 12 that we are all part of Christ’s body and therefore must care for one another. He continues, “It does not mean mindless helping, but caring for those unable to care for themselves and at the very least doing what one can to enable that all in the world have a means to help themselves physically, mentally and spiritually.”
Caring for all in the world is a tall order. However, if we truly look at others as God sees them, we will notice that we are, indeed, one human family and we are thus mutually responsible. It falls to each of us to be generous with the other, to ensure that everyone has what is needed. St. John Chrysostom stated that generosity is not just a nice thing to do, but rather that it is necessary for salvation: “The rich exist for the sake of the poor. The poor exist for the salvation of the rich.”
So it appears that for the sake of our very soul, it is imperative that we evaluate our own lifestyle. We must look at our home, our bank account, our expenditures, our attention, even how we spend our time. As we examine each, let us ask ourselves: are we living in a manner driven by greed? Or are we walking in the virtue of liberality and being generous (with our time, attention, and assets) to all? Our salvation depends upon it.
“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother, for
Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.”
(The Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian)
Read Fr. George Morelli’s article here: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/view/morelli-living-as-a-christian-in-a-post-christian-world-discernment
Here are additional links and resources that can help us to learn more about and better walk in liberality:
“There is no more practical way to love someone than to be generous with them and we’re not simply talking about money… How often have we neglected to simply give someone attention?…This generosity is within the capacity of each of us to give to the other: …it is time, it is attention, it is compassion, and yes, for those who are in need, it is even things, it is financial resources…” Listen to this podcast of a sermon on generosity: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/sermonsatstnicholas/cultivating_a_generous_spirit_lk_1619_31
“If the poison of pride is swelling up in you, turn to the Eucharist; and that Bread, Which is your God humbling and disguising Himself, will teach you humility. If the fever of selfish greed rages in you, feed on this Bread; and you will learn generosity…” ~ St. Cyril of Alexandria
Children can teach us generosity. Read this short story and/or watch your own children’s generosity. Be prepared to learn from them: https://www.becomingminimalist.com/a-generous-appeal/
“The amount we give is not judged by the largeness of the gifts but the largeness of our hearts. The poor woman who shares her meager pot of stew with another poor woman is far more to be praised than the rich man who throws a few gold coins into a collection at church. But although most Christians acknowledge the truth of this, their words and actions convey a different message. When a rich man makes a large gift to the church, he is heartily thanked; and although he will not feel the lack of that money himself, he is praised for his generosity. When a poor man makes a small gift, nothing is said, even though that gift may cause him to go hungry, no one praises him or thanks him. It would be better to praise no one than to confine our praise to the rich. Better still, we should take trouble to observe every true act of generosity, whether by the rich or the poor, and then offer our praise. Indeed let us be as generous with our praise as people are generous with their money.” ~ St. John Chrystostom
“We know that God loves cheerful giving. And why shouldn’t we be cheerful in giving? In reality, we are not giving away what we have earned. We are giving back what He has blessed us with.” Read more in this article on being generous with our time and attention as well as our money: http://myocn.net/generosity-of-time/
St. John Climacus’s “Ladder of Divine Ascent” includes this: Step 16, “On Love of Money:” “The lover of money sneers at the gospel and is a deliberate transgressor. The man of charity spreads his money about him. …the person who has conquered this vice has cut out care, but the person trapped by it can never pray freely to God.”
“To have and to not share is greed. To have and to share is gratitude. Thanksgiving manifests itself in generosity, and generosity is giving without expecting anything in return. It is a willingness not only to help a neighbor or a friend but even an enemy.” Read this encouraging meditation on the Good Samaritan here: http://myocn.net/thanksgiving-manifests-generosity/
“We are God’s eyes, we are God’s feet, we are God’s ears, we are God’s arms… God is asking you and me to give, and … give… generously.” Challenge your perspective on generosity with Fr. Nicholas Louh’s homily on the topic here: http://myocn.net/generosity-having-a-giving-heart/
“You are a sample engineer… every day you’re giving out a sample of God to people. Every day in our actions, what we do, in our generosity, we’re saying, ‘here, taste some of this.’ And the way in which I live will either draw people to God or draw people away from God.” Continue to learn about generosity in this homily by Fr. Nicholas Louh on the topic: http://myocn.net/be-a-giver/