About Stewardship

 

Why is it necessary to beg God through prayers to accept our gifts?

Gifts are symbols and ways that communicate a message. Gifts express feelings, show appreciation, and touch lives.

Gifting is an attempt to please and impress those that are loved, cared for, or simply those that play a role in our lives, which we recognize as important.

Gifts differ in their in shapes, forms, and values, but ultimately all gifts reveal the depth and the degree of the inner appreciation of the giver toward the beneficiary of the gift.

Additionally, as it is within the right of the giver to decide on the value, shape, and time of the gift, likewise, it is within the right of the beneficiary to accept or reject the gift. In another word, a gift cannot be characterized as a gift until it has been accepted by the beneficiary.

The Holy Bible has plethora of examples about stories of giving and gifting. There are stories about gifts being accepted, and other stories about gifts that have been rejected.

In the book of Genesis we read the story of Cain who had brought some of the fruits of the earth as an offering to the Lord. His gift was rejected by God.

His brother Abel also brought gifts to the Lord from the firstborn of his flock. God was pleased by his gifts, and he accepted them.

When Cain questioned the rejection of his gift, God basically told him that had he done the correct thing, his gift would have been accepted. (Genesis 4:3-8)

The Holy Bible is saturated with stories about the unfathomable generosity of God toward his people, and likewise filled with stories about generous giving, and individuals who tried to imitate God in his generosity.

The story of the widow who offered the minimal amount of two pennies won God’s pleasure over the many rich people who offered bags filled with a lot more money than her in terms of gold and silver.

The determining factor in God’s eyes that makes the gift pleasing or displeasing is not the type, size, or the value of the gift, rather it is the human attitude of the person who is offering the gift.

The Divine Liturgy itself in its entirety is nothing but a gift given to God to express to him our thanksgiving and appreciation. The peak moment of the Divine Liturgy is when the priest pleads with trembling with God to accept the offerings of the people saying, “Thine own of thine own, we offer to you on behalf of all and for all”.

There is nothing that a man can offer to God that does not belong to God in the first place, simply because God is the creator of everything.

Every time when a gift is given to God, that moment is an awesome and fearful. At such moment the person is in need to beg God from the depth of his heart asking God to accept the gift. This feeling stems from the fact that making an offering to God a holy act.

While making a gift we need God’s help to inspire us through the power of the Holy Spirit to grant us the appropriate attitude toward him, so that we are inspired with repentant and grateful attitude, which is the most important factor to invoke God to pour out his mercy upon us, and accept our gifts.
 

Prayer of Christians Desiring the Gift of Stewardship

Saint Zacchaeus the apostle, pray with me. Ask the holy Mother of God and all the saints to pray with you on my behalf to the Lord God Jesus Christ. I desire from the Lord to open my eyes to see him in the same blessed way you saw him.

Lord, I am longing for your presence under the roof of my soul. I beg you to smash the stony shell of my heart through your divine touch as you did to Zaccahaeus.

Jesus Christ you are the Lord of my life, allow me to feel the same joy Zacchaeus felt as you forgave his sins. Empower me to declare your joy every moment of my life after his example.

My Lord and my God, I desire with my whole heart to be a pleasing steward in your eyes and to be accounted worthy to join the choir of the apostles, the saints, and all the righteous people who pleased you throughout the ages. Amen

Stewardship in the Parable of the Prodigal Son

The parable of the “Prodigal Son” is an awesome illustration by the Lord Jesus Christ that puts in a clear perspective the crucial and vital concept of Christian “Stewardship”.

The “Prodigal Son” was a delusional child of God just like numberless of people who want to build something for themselves away from God the Father. 

This is an image of every delusional Christian that desires the independence from God in his life, wanting, or feeling the need to be liberated from the divine structure and laws of God.

The “Prodigal Son” was confused person besides to being delusional.

He demanded from God talents and inheritance that are God’s property as if it were his personal possession, and later he squandered them in the life and the in service of sin.

He was confused to take what was God’s as his. He believed that it was his right to use it and spend it as he desired.

His departure from the house of God gave him what he had fantasized. He was able to taste the bitterness of sin.

The “Prodigal Son” discovered for himself that “Sin” is nothing but a delusion.

“Sin”, he discovered is an attractive delusion. “Sin” is a delusion because it comes from nothingness, it has nothing to give, and it leads back to nothingness.

Sin is not limited to falling into carnal impurity and in the pleasures of the flesh.

The “Prodigal Son” could have very well engaged himself in the sin of denying God’s existence, or rejecting God’s love and care.

Sin could be the desire of longing to obtain fame and vain human glory at very costly price.

The over confidence in the human wisdom and its accomplishments can be one of the forms of sin. Causing others any of the various forms of pain for personal gain can be some of the sins that the “Prodigal Son” had engaged himself in.

Turning our back to the “Church” and not being supportive and active in spreading the mission of the gospel is one form of a sinful living after the pattern of the “Prodigal Son”.

Christian “Stewardship” is an active expression of the inner faith and trust in Jesus Christ that we are not orphans; we have a Father, our God who created us.

Healthy understanding and practice of “Stewardship” enhances the believers’ personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and enriches it.

No real “Stewardship” can exist without this clear and healthy understanding.

“Stewardship” is the realization that all human beings do not belong to anywhere but to God’s household, they are not slaves or servants, but they are God’s children unless they freely choose to deprive themselves of this grace.

“Stewardship” is the realization that the human race that freely chose the life of sin can still go back home through repentance.

“Stewardship” is the knowledge that our return and presence in the house of God is still desired, wanted, and welcomed by God.

“Stewardship” is the knowledge that falling away from grace does not deprive us from our God-given son-ship privileges if we ever repent and walk back home.

“Stewardship” is the knowledge and inner experiencing that God is loving and not a revengeful person.

“Stewardship” is knowing and tasting that God is loving, and that he knows and feels the pain of each one of us.

“Stewardship” is knowing that upon our return to God we win the forgiveness of the Father, his attention, and regain the friendship of the saints and the righteous.

God’s house has far more to offer than what sin can offer us, and returning back to God’s house grants us happiness, satisfaction, and unfathomable joy.

“Stewardship” is avoiding the manner of the jealous and intolerant older brother.

In churches at times there are groups that do not know how to forgive the sinners.

“Stewardship” does not condone rejecting the people who come back to God.

If we reject the repentance of the sinners, it is either because we have not transitioned into Christianity yet, or Christianity has never entered our hearts.

“Stewardship” as Saint Augustine explains is the “Obtaining the peace of Christ” as without this peace, it is not possible to build peaceful relationships with all people especially with those oppose or put our patience to the test. 

Sanctification of mankind is the most important goal of “Stewardship”. 

If this goal is not achieved; any talk about “Stewardship” is needless and total failure.

 

Meaning of True “Stewardship”

 

What is NOT Stewardship?


• “Annual Pledge or Dues”
• “Giving Money”
• “ Being enlisted in a financial campaign”
• “Tithing”

What is Stewardship?

“Steward” comes from the Greek term “Oikonomos -House Manager”
“Steward/servant/slave” are interchangeable terms in the Holy Gospel
“Stewardship”: is a “Trust/Deposit/responsibility/gift” bestowed on a person by the Lord Jesus Christ
“Obedience” to God’s word is another synonymous word for “Stewardship”
• The first created human beings Adam and Eve were entrusted to take care of God’s creation in the Garden of Eden.
• God has given Adam and Eve one commandment only; not to eat from the fruit of a certain tree in order not to die.
• The purpose of “Stewardship” through being an executive of a trust is to reach deification/sanctification.
• The “Violation” of God’s trust is violation of “Stewardship”. It leads to the fall of mankind into death.
Most known forms of “Stewardship”
“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28)
• Apostleship: the twelve apostles, the seventy, and those equal to the apostles throughout Christian history even until today and till the ends of times
• Prophecy: the prophets of the Old Testament and the New Testament and those who are after that echo the prophetic teaching of God till the end of the ages
• Teachers: St. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom and many more teachers and fathers of the Church
• Miracle Workers: St. Nicholas, St. Spyridon, St. George, St. Demetrios, St. Nektarios
• Healers: the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian, Cyrus and John, Panteleimon
• Leadership: St. Athanasios, St. Cyril, St. John the Merciful
• Tongues: St. Cyril and Methodios the illuminators of the Slavic people
• Martyrs: St. Steven, St. Eleutherios, St. Phanourios, St. Theodore, St. Haralambos
• Ascetics: St. Anthony the great, St. John of the ladder, St. Simeon the Stylites
• Musicians: St. Romanos the melodist, St. Joseph the hymnographer
How do we practically make stewardship a reality in our own personal life?
• Rediscover the authentic Christian understanding of “Stewardship”
• Understand that we owe God thankfulness to offer him the proper gratitude for his free and unconditional gift of love/life
• Restore through repentance our full communion with God by cutting our ties with sin and by maintaining a daily remembrance of death
• Live life of holiness pleasing to God by terminating the passions of treasures, pleasure, power, or glory and casting away the sin of “Selfishness” and all of its related sins
• Experience the newness of life in Christ through being an “Aware Christian” by freeing our heart from grudges, prejudices, and judgments of others

Making “Stewardship” a reality in the midst of our local parish life. “Stewardship” is a call to a commitment of the entire existence of a person to Christ; “let us commit ourselves, and one another, and our whole life to Christ our God”

1. “Stewardship” is manifested fully in the proclamation of the priest during the consecration of the holy gifts at the peak of the Divine Liturgy; “We offer to You these gifts from Your own gifts in all and for all”
2. It is wise for desiring Christians who long to practice genuine stewardship by obeying God’s commandment to ensure the existence of a proper environment that supports and sustains a focused life on seeking the Kingdom of Heaven
3. Any real and sustained breakthrough on the front of the “Stewardship” within any parish requires the healing of wrong concepts and teachings. Parishioners should be encouraged, empowered, and supported to take initiatives and participate in energizing the life of worship within their parish, the education, and the means of their spiritual and physical healing.
“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received” (I Peter 4:10)
1. Ensuring to hand down the “Deposit” of the faith to the next generations unharmed by guarding, living, and maintaining” the Orthodox Christian faith, customs, holy tradition, and worship pure and unaltered
2. Striving to spread the message of Christ within our surrounding and throughout the world as commissioned by Jesus Christ himself (Matthew 28:19)
Related “Stewardship” passages from the holy gospel
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33)
Sunday: The Sower (Matthew 13:1-23). “Stewardship”- the word of God
Monday: The Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35). “Stewardship”- gift of salvation
Tuesday: The Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14). “Stewardship”- invitation
Wednesday: The Bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13). “Stewardship”- Charity
Thursday: The Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). “Stewardship”- God given gifts
Friday: The Fool Rich (Luke 12:13-33). “Stewardship”- Abusing wealth
Saturday: Watchfulness & Faithfulness (Luke 12:35-48). “Stewardship”- abusing trust
PRAYER OF CHRISTIANS DESIRING THE GIFT OF STEWARDSHIP

Saint Zacchaeus the apostle, pray with me. Ask the holy Mother of God and all the saints to pray with you on my behalf to the Lord God Jesus Christ. I desire from the Lord to open my eyes to see him in the same blessed way you saw him.

Lord, I am longing for your presence under the roof of my soul. I beg you to smash the stony shell of my heart through your divine touch as you did to Zaccahaeus.

Jesus Christ you are the Lord of my life, allow me to feel the same joy Zacchaeus felt as you forgave his sins. Empower me to declare your joy every moment of my life after his example.

My Lord and my God, I desire with my whole heart to be a pleasing steward in your eyes and to be accounted worthy to join the choir of the apostles, the saints, and all the righteous people who pleased you throughout the ages. Amen

Transitioning to Stewardship

“Stewardship” is an awesome and wonderworking vision if it is implemented correctly. In order to transition successfully from non-Stewardship setting into a full “Stewardship” system; it is important to identify the elements that should be prepared prior to setting the foundation, remove or add certain other elements prior to embarking on such a major change. Then follow certain timetable which envisions reaching a smoothly working system by the end date of that timetable.

 

Keep in Mind:

1. “Stewardship” is a form of governance, administration, and operating system. It is not a financial system. In the world of machinery; “Stewardship” would be translated to mean the operating system. It would not translate to mean how the machine is financed. 

2. Sanctification of mankind is the most important goal of “Stewardship”. If this goal is not achieved; “Stewardship” becomes failure and is needless. The sainthood of the person is more important than the system itself. “Stewardship” as a system is put in place for the purpose of serving mankind to reach the goal of sainthood. It is not the other way around.

3. “Tithing”, dues, government subsidiary would be the financial systems and/or terms that would be used to refer to the financial aspect that is utilized in certain church community.

4. “Stewardship” has a financial impact as one of its fruits, but it is not an emergency or immediate urgent response system to finance crisis. If a community that desires to adopt “Stewardship” while going through financial difficulties, the correct response would be to utilize the appropriate means to resolve the pending issues while going through the transition.

5. The response to urgent and pressing financial needs within a community cannot be resolved by transitioning to stewardship. But, once the system has been put in place and is functioning; then resolving financial needs becomes more effective and efficient.

6. “Stewardship” is a perpetual process that requires daily attention. In the medical world, the family care setting and the preventive health care would be the equivalent setting to stewardship, not the emergency room setting.

7. Adopting “Stewardship” as a way of life has to be a conscious and clear decision on the part of the entire community as well as each and every individual faithful that is part of the community that is adopting “Stewardship”.

8. “Stewardship” is an honor system that is based upon free will acceptance. Each participant faithful is the guardian and the protector of this system and his/her main task of supervision lays in supervising one’s own self and not others.

9. Stewardship way of life is founded upon a re-learned and re-trained behavior. It requires extensive familiarity with the Church Tradition. As such it is a life time process.

10. “Stewardship” is a faith based system and a way of life. Without believing in Jesus Christ it is impossible to implement “Stewardship”.

11. The flame of “Stewardship” is energized and strengthened by being a full participant in the life of the Church; the liturgical life, the study of the faith, being in the company of the saints, the social life of the community, and through the involvement in the ministry of the Church.

12. “Stewardship” can never sprout in a divided community. Unity of the faith and the existence of a genuine and supportive love among the church family members constitute some of the most needed and crucial ingredients to maintain the church community alive and vibrant.

13. Consistency and the implementation of one exclusive system are crucial to the success of stewardship. Inconsistency is detrimental to the success of the “Stewardship”. Mixing stewardship with other different and contradicting systems is a recipe for failure.

Examining Stewardship through the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee(Luke 18:10-14)

The parable of the publican and the Pharisee offers great insight into the true and authentic understanding of stewardship. 

This parable makes the case very clear that stewardship is not a money based concept. Rather, it is a way of life. Stewardship starts with repentance. 

The ultimate purpose of stewardship is the sanctification of the soul and the body of each believer.

Our sanctification cannot happen against our will. It is not possible for anyone to be coerced into or be tricked into sanctification.

The aim of stewardship is to normalize of man’s life and harmonizes his inner being, but it is a process that requires great effort.

Stewardship is an expression of faith and belief in Jesus Christ, understating the value of his salvation, being nurtured by his teaching. Without true and deep Christian faith; true stewardship can never exist.

Stewardship is about believing in the existence of the eternal life and that it is of crucial importance to invest in one’s own eternal life.

Stewardship usually is presented in a misleading ways and certainly treated according to wrong concepts.

Compare statements such as “The church needs you”, “Help the church”, “Support the church”, “You are the future of the church” with the statements made by the Pharisee.

Could these statements be any further from the truth? Should not this type of statements be removed from all church literature, promotion, and private talks?

The main purpose of becoming part of a church community is to make personal strides on the path of holiness.

The purpose of stewardship is not to consume one’s most efforts and the thinking energy on the financial aspects of the life of the community. 

Neglecting to build the church community programs and events that deepen the spiritual life of the faithful is a grave mistake. 

Solid stewardship life requires maintaining solid liturgical and prayer life on a personal level and as a group, building solid educational, outreach, philanthropic, and other Christian programs as well. 

As a matter of fact, no financial stability can be reached in any church community without achieving first stability in the other areas of the life of the church that are related to the spiritual progress of the faithful. 

The financial prosperity of any parish is only a gage; a thermometer, a reader, and indicator of the fervency of the faith and the commitment of the parishioners to their own personal salvation.

The faith of the parishioners will drive the financial numbers up not the other way around.  

The percentage of spiritual growth of the body of the faithful will be at minimum levels if the church community manages to keep the church doors open through various creative fundraising practices at the expense of investing in the spiritual and educational needs of the faithful.