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Frequently Asked Questions - ETHICAL & PRACTICAL QUESTIONS
Tithing was an obligatory legal discipline in the O. T. (Gen. 14: 20, Lev. 27: 31; Nu. 18: 24-28: Dt. 12: 6; Neh. 10: 37; Am. 4: 4; Mal. 3: 8-10; Lk. 18: 12). Those who were not tithing were robbing God (Mal. 3:8). That which was legalistic tithing in the O. T. is a part of Christian stewardship in the N. T. According to the N. T. all are only gifts of God and so are accountable to God for all of one's possessions. A Christian who titles, but does not use one-tenth according to the will of God is not a true Christian. The trusteeship principle taught by Mahatma Gandhi is a Christian idea.
Did Jesus want us to tithe ? He did not tell the Pharisees to stop tithing. What he told them is applicable to us Christians also: "Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done, it without neglecting the others" (Lk. 11:42). The emphasis is on justice and the love of God. Christian tithing must be as part of these two Christian traits. As Christ says, 'these you ought to have done.' He is recommending tithing. Even if the verse is interpreted other way round, still He says that we should not neglect tithing. Love of God and justice to fellowmen must be our main concern. Again, when Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar the thing that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's " (Mt. 22:21), the Jews must have understood it as the need to give tithe, first-fruits etc. unto God. We know that everything we have is God's and we tithe as an expression of our gratitude for His multifarious gifts to us. The advantage of setting apart one-tenth for charity is that we will always have a fund to give to the needy without any heartache. Christian giving should not be out of compulsion, but out of the joy of giving. (Read II Cor. 8 & 9). The one verse that Jesus said that is not read in the gospels, but only in the Acts is, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). The idea is that happiness is more in giving than in receiving. If tithing is a legalism in the O.T. it is a dynamic joy in the N. T. If the Jew felt satisfied after having given the tithe, first-fruits etc., the Christian feels that he has not given as much as he should. The widow who offered all her living in the two mites that she offered in the treasury in the temple was praised by the Lord as she did not keep back anything for herself, but offered all what she had. Christ is not looking for the amount or quantity of giving, but the quality of giving. "God so loved the world that He gave......" We love our children and we give them as much as we can. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Lk. 12: 34). It also means where your heart is, there your treasure will also be. We will give to the poor and the needy with as much joy as we give to the children if our hearts are with the Lord and the poor.
The answer then is that the least a Christian should do must be tithing. As John Wesly said, "work as hard as you can, earn as much as you can, use as little as you can, and give as much as you can." This is what the parents do for the children and we must do the same for the Church, the poor, the hungry, the sick, and the jobless.
The Christian's not afraid of any evil spirit or stars, or angels or principalities as Christ has disarmed all of them by His death and resurrection. To quote St. Paul, "He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food or a new moon or a sabbaths. These are only shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." (Col. 2: 15-17). It is lack of a deep faith in God that trusts in the forces of nature to control the destiny of the Child of God ! It was when the Spirit of God departed from Saul that the evil spirit came upon Soul (I Sam. 16: 14). What can the evil spirit do to the believing children of God who are in the Spirit of God ? The power of Jesus over the evil spirits is clear in the record incidents of exorcism in the N. T. Any evil spirit will flee if Christ is in us.
Similarly, we should not believe in fate or in fatalism. Nothing happens to us without the knowledge of our Savior and all things work together for good to them that love the Lord, those called according to His purpose (Rom. 8: 28). Belief in Providence is sufficient to have no belief in fate. Lack of faith leads to doubts and fear.
Those who believe in omens, sakunam, rahu and dasa santhi are also not true believers in Christ. Even those who believe that magic or evil spirits have some powers must remember the incident of Aaron's rod swallowing the rods of the magicians of Egypt (Ex. 7: 8-13), showing thereby that the power of Jehovah is always above the power of all magicians. As God who is our Father is able to convert our sani dasato to sukra dasa why should we ask some one to write our jathakam ?
We live in a world where we are surrounded by the so called civilized people living in what is called a permissive society. The old immorality is now called new morality. Any one who speaks of sexual discipline is called Victorian, puritanic and even old-fashioned. There are even some psychiatrists who blame the sex ethics for much of the guilt complex, though such psychiatrists are out-weighed by those who are more learned than they who see the need of sex morality taught by religions. History itself shows that all the major cultures and civilizations have fallen after the interior weakness of the citizens in living a loose moral life. The Fall of the Roman Empire was after its fall in sex morality. Arnold J. Toynbee's Study of History is sufficient to prove my point.
The difference between animals and man is in the image of God in man alone. The sex life of animals is periodical and purely instinctive, but man's is different. Animals do not have a sense of shame when they mate in the public, but man has a God-given sense of shame and so he mates in secret. Conscience is partly God given and partly the Creation of the influence of society in each individual. The sense of guilt experienced in breaking the sex morality has a universal relevance though the gravity may differ from one person to another and from one society to another. One man for one woman is the order of creation. "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gen. 2: 24). Monogamy and monoandry are the ideal and not polygamy and polyandry. Jesus quoted the above verse from Genesis and added, "what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mt. 19: 6). Mind is a photographic plate to be reserved in the matter of sex to be exposed after the marriage with the only partner of one's life. Loose sexual life and frequent divorces go together.
The practice of punishing the adulterer with murder was (Lev. 20: 10) perhaps stopped by Christ pur Lord Who said, 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" (Jn. 8: 7). Our Lord was not being lenient to the woman caught in adultery to permit her return to a sinful life. He told her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and do not sin again." Christ wanted one to be moral not out of fear of punishment, but out of love to the Lord. He did not abrogate the seventh commandment, but made it deeper by saying, "everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt. 5: 28). He knew that thought proceeds action and so wanted us to harbor pure thought and keep away from tempting atmosphere.
The sanctity of sex is in keeping its sanctity. It is a God-given mighty force that can be sublimated for innumerable noble purpose like art, religion, philosophy, scientific discoveries etc. Sublimation is always better than suppression and repression of sex. When sex is expressed it must be within the wedlock of marriage. Premarital and extra marital intercourses have no Christian sanction. Sexual perversions like homosexuality and masturbation must be understood as perversions and overcome with the grace of God.
Mother Teresa has said that the most precious gift you can give to your spouse on your wedding day is the gift of your virginity. Think about that. Isn't it true that you are the only person in the whole world who can give this gift? It is such a special gift, more precious than jewels, so you want to cherish it and protect it with all your might. You can only give this gift one time, so your future husband or wife is surely the only person in all the world who deserves this total and complete gift of yourself.
If young men and women would make the decision at an early age to remain a virgin until marriage, they would not be faced with spur-of-the-moment decision making. They would know their goal and be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that high standard. They would be cautious of the company they keep and their areas of entertainment. They would be aware of temptations and difficult situations and better prepared to avoid them. They would be free to grow and mature and learn and discover God's wonderful plan for their lives. They would not have to worry about "late" periods, pregnancy, abortion, "birth control," venereal diseases, AIDS and all the other physical, spiritual, psychological and emotional consequences of premarital sexual intercourse. They would have real respect for themselves and their friends, and they would be confident that they were living in a way that is pleasing to God. They would be protecting and saving themselves for the one and only special person God has chosen to be their lifelong husband or wife if marriage is their vocation.
Do young people think about such things? Do they ever hear the words "virginity," "chastity," "purity," "modesty" or "self-mastery?" Do these words sound as if they were part of a foreign language because no one ever uses them anymore? Is this beautiful gift of total self giving not worth saving for their one and only marriage partner? God thinks it is. He has told us this is precisely what He expects of us because He loves us. And, He gives us all the grace we need to be able to do it.
It is very important for parents and schools and churches to teach these truths clearly and to reinforce each other. Otherwise, our young people will never hear the words or learn God's truth because the TV, movies, music and the world do not love the children or care about them. So many young people have lost their virginity and self respect because they believed the lies of the world. We must offer them the hope and freedom of "secondary virginity." They can ask for God's forgiveness and be forgiven. They can "start over" and make their commitment to remain chaste until their wedding day. They need this opportunity and encouragement to begin again and to change with God's grace.
If we recognize marriage and conjugal love to be a sacred part of God's plan, then we can understand the importance of chastity. Chastity protects. It strengthens. It builds character. It encourages self control. It inspires reverence. It guarantees freedom. It guards against selfishness, and it applies to every human person. Chastity is not always easy, but it is always possible with God's help. Chastity reaffirms marriage and the sexual relationship between a husband and wife as very good, very special and very holy. The sacredness of cooperating with God in His creation of a new human life is so powerful and so awesome that this precious gift should only be shared in the security of a loving, generous and committed marriage relationship. This is God's way, and it is definitely worth waiting for because the total, complete gift of pure love that the bride and groom give to each other on their wedding day is truly a precious gift.
Source: Pamphlet - Diocese of Memphis NFP Center
Mother/Daughter & Father/Son Programs
Drunkards who want a basis for their drinking in the Bible always quote, (Jn. 2: 1-11) forgetting all the other anti-drink passages in the Bible (Is. 28: 1, 3; Prov. 23: 21; 26; 9; Rev. 17: 1-2; Gal. 5: 21, Rom. 13: 13; Lk. 21: 34 etc.) The miracles of the fourth Gospel are called signs. Concerning John 2: 1, Jerome Bible Commentary says, "The Wine of Cana that replaces the water of Jewish purification, the life-giving water that comes from Christ, the heavenly bread that is his flesh (6: 51) - all these signify the sacraments that are efficacious in virtue of his redemptive work, bestowing the Holy Spirit that is the life of the church" (Vol. II. p. 418). The water changed to strong wine is the sign of the change in the elements of the sacraments by the presence of Christ. Those who have Christ in them are already in the spiritual presence of the Holy Spirit and they do not need the spirit of strong wine to boost them up. Even if we take it literally, we must understand the Palestinian local situation and the custom of serving only wine in the wedding parties as Palestine is a wine growing country. The first miracle of Jesus is misinterpreted if it is taken as a permission to drink strong liquor. It is the mind of Christ that is more important than a particular event in the Savior's life. The mind of Christ was certainly full of sympathy for the hungry, the sick and the bereaved. If we have such a mind, how can our conscience permit us to spend the God-given money for liquor? An incident in a particular wedding party, where the honor of the Host was protected by the Lord in response to the intercession of His mother is no excuse for wasting one's health, resources, time and talents for drinking alcoholic beverages. Christian conscience from the very early period has been against drinking wine even for medicine. Hence Timothy would not use it even as medicine. Therefore St. Paul had to plead with him and write, "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments" (I Tim. 5: 23). We must remember that more families are destroyed today by liquor than any other single factor. Liquor is the greatest killer by so many means such as cancer, drunk driving, murder and what not?
Prohibition alone will not solve the habit of alcoholism as it is a negative approach. The Churches must be responsible to solve the problems of individuals who resort to drinking against their own desire by the pressure of circumstances and as an easy means of getting temporary mental peace as in consuming opium. Pastoral counseling must be one way of helping such people. Confession to the priest must also give the person all the benefits of counseling and much more. If a father is going to the toddy shop to decrease the worry about his married daughters of marriageable age, the church must have means to have those girls married through aid from Marriage Assistance Fund. All the churches must support the government's effort to impose prohibition and to make it a success. There should be no liquor advertisements. Young people must be brought to the joy of absolute self-surrender to Jesus Christ and the thrill of life and service in the power of the Holy Spirit that they will never go for the dangerous alcoholic spirit. Christian publications must have articles on the dangers of alcoholic drinks. "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler" (Prov. 20:1).
One of the most unpardonable crimes of our rich and middle class people is the superfluous show of wealth in wedding parties. Thousands of girls remain unwedded due to lack of finance and yet the few who can afford, do not help them for their minimum needs, but waste a colossal amount for weeding parties. If this evil practice is not curtailed, some model of Chinese revolution will come to India also and stop wedding parties for all people as none will be able to afford and the Government will strictly forbid it. Luxury is certainly a sin.
Though marriages are registered in the soviet Union, more and more couples are coming to the church for church-marriages for the sheer beauty and grace of it. If one agrees that marriage is a sacrament (Mt. 19: 6; Eph. 5: 31 etc.), it naturally must take place in the church in the midst of the faithful by the validly ordained priest of the church. As one goes to the theatre for cinema, to the play ground for games, to the club for secular get together, one goes to the Church for the sacred sacraments of the Church.
We live at a time when the Governments are encouraging mixed marriages as a means of national integration. Rationalists say that Christians are not having a universal and cosmic outlook when they forbid inter-religious marriages. Are the Christians communalistic and narrow-minded when they say with St. Paul "be not unevenly yoked" (II Cor. 6: 14)? There are many reasons for the Christian practice of marrying only Christians.
(a) Marriage is a sacrament and sacraments are not administered to the non-Christians as long as they do not join the Church. Even the Hindus have Sudhi-karma to make a non-Hindu a Hindu. The rite of initiation is practiced by all religions in one way or other to make one a member.
(b) Marriage is the most intimate bond in one's life and there should be deep agreement in the philosophy of life of both the partners, although certain different character or traits may be mutually complementary (e.g. a miser and a spendthrift). Religion is one's philosophy of life and so the partners must be of one religion.
(c) The bringing up of the children will be a problem in mixed marriages if the couple want to bring them up in the religious nurture. The child will be lost as to weather to go-to the temple or church. Family prayer is necessary in a Christian home and in mixed marriages, this will be impossible or at least difficult.
(d) Though there may be exceptions, many of the mixed marriages are ending up in separation, alienation, or even divorce. The emotional love affair that brought the couple together will not last long when the realities of family problem are faced by the couple. They do not have the anchor of a common religious faith to hold them together without a shipwreck.
(e) Every one must be loyal to the particular discipline of the church to which one belongs. Radicals who go ahead with the idealism of their individuality will soon find out that they are ostracized by their society, family, and even intimate friends. Mixed marriage does not seems to be a step to be taken to show an example to their community, for hardly anyone will follow suit except in love marriages.
(f) The tradition and long practice of the Church for two thousand years must have a strength of its own, which must be appreciated by the youth also. If one wants to marry a non-Christian, one must teach the partner the faith to which one belongs and convert the person to that faith and then have a religious wedding.