Freely ye have received, freely give.

A fundamental principal of priestly ministry.

Simony.

Almsgiving.

A great privilege.

The multitudes and the pastoral heart.

Laborers.

3rd Monday after Pentecost.

 

A fundamental principle of the priestly ministry is contained here:

 

“freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)

 

Actually, this is a fundamental principle of the Christian life, and therefore even more so of the life of a Christian priest. All we have is from the grace of God, which is freely given, without respect to person, because of His NATURE. If we are to know God, then we must become like Him. Therefore, we must freely give of ourselves, without respect to person.

 

For a priest, this means that he must not expect “payment for services rendered.” It grieves my heart terribly to know that there are “payment schedules” posted on walls in churches (I have been told this is the case in some places (but not all!) in Russia, for instance), detailing fees for baptisms, molebens and any other service where a priest may be called.

 

This is a great sin. I think of it as a form of “simony” (which is the paying of money to obtain position or authority in the church). Simon the Magus[1] wanted to pay the apostles to gain the power they had, most likely to make a profit himself.

 

We have many examples of giving without expecting payment. The whole of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is an example! We also have the example of Elisha (Elijah), who refused payment from Naaman, after he had been cleaned of leprosy by following the commandment of the prophet and dipping himself into the Jordan seven times:

 

And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.  (16)  But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused. (2Ki 5:15-16 KJV)

 

And we have the rebuke of Peter to Simon, which falls heavily upon the head of any priest who would dare to charge for something that is without price:

 

But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.  (21)  Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.  (22)  Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.  (23)  For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. (Act 8:20-23)

 

 

Often when I am called regarding a baptism or marriage, I am asked what “the charge” is. I always reply that there is no charge, but they are free to give a donation of any amount if they wish. How can they “freely give” if they are charged? A priest sins twice by charging for services: he sins against the solemn admonition to “freely give”, and he does not allow for others to “freely give” since they are being charged a fee, and to consider the church as a secular institution.

 

I think it is imperative that we give alms with our prayers. A person who has a baby baptized, or a moleben served should give some sort of alms. I have always stated this in my ministry, and by not expecting any payment for anything, I give each person the opportunity to freely give alms.

 

I find that those who ask “what the charge is” are those whom I have never seen, and rarely see again. Why is this? Why are so many who call themselves Christians basically unchurched? It is a great mystery to me why so many people are so little touched by the grace of the services and the Orthodox Christian life, but I believe that a part of the reason is because they have learned to see the church in a secular way. After all, if you want a hamburger, you must pay a certain amount. Why should it be different if you want a baptism?

 

Every time we do anything for anyone, we are privileged to participate in the economy of God! This is a privilege that cannot be valued, as it is priceless. The clergy of today need to be more spiritual, and not secular, and realize that the privilege of being God’s instrument, even though they are a weak and infirm vessel, is payment enough.

 

Matthew 9:36-38 36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

 

 

The multitudes are those in need of the gospel; they are just as numerous today as they were then. The Christian pastor sees multitudes everywhere; in the city, in the country, and in the temple! The pastoral heart burns with great sadness for those multitudes who bear the name of Christian and yet rarely pray, whether at church or at home, and hold on to ideas and morals that are in no way Christian. With each candle that is lit by a stranger, most to be never seen again, the pastoral heart cries out for some strength to help those fainting, that is, with weak faith and knowledge of the gospel.

 

It is possible for sheep to have no shepherd even when the shepherd is near, because the sheep follow the shepherd only if they know his voice[2]. These multitudes of sheep, who have the name of Christian, but little of the power and knowledge, are fainting with hunger and thirst, even when they go to the church where the table is heavy laden.

 

Indeed, we must pray for laborers! There should be more priests, more deacons, more godly bishops, more people to sing, to pray, to labor in all things!

 

When I was a layman, I interpreted this verse to apply FULLY to me, because it does. This is not merely a plea for more clergy, but for more laborers. We all should be willing, active and zealous laborers. As a layman, I considered it my sacred duty to attend every service possible, and attempt to pray. Things happened; later on my ministry changed, but the obligation remains the same; we all must be laborers in the vineyard.

 

 

 

Reading for the 3rd Monday after Pentecost : Matthew 9:36-10:8 36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. 1 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. 2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-06-21.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-06-21.doc

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[1] Simon was a socrcerer, who offered the Apostles money when he saw their ability to expel unclean spirits. Act 8:9-24 KJV  But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:  (10)  To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.  (11)  And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.  (12)  But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  (13)  Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.  (14)  Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:  (15)  Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:  (16)  (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)  (17)  Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.  (18)  And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,  (19)  Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.  (20)  But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.  (21)  Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.  (22)  Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.  (23)  For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.  (24)  Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.

 

[2] John 10:1-4 KJV  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  (2)  But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  (3)  To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.  (4)  And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.





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St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas