• Epistle Reading
  • In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! Our Epistle reading, from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, is one that is very well known. The commentary in the Orthodox Study Bible (p. 417) identifies this passage as St. “Paul’s landmark teaching on Christian stewardship.” This is where he tells us what Christian stewardship is all about. In the Christian groups that surround us today in the Southern United States, this passage is very often chosen when a pastor needs to preach about tithing. So the way we commonly hear it interpreted is dealing primarily with money. But St. Paul is talking about a lot more than what we choose to do with our money.
    So we’ll look at this topic of stewardship in three sections this morning—
    1-we’ll ask, “what is a steward?”
    2-we’ll ask, “what are Christians, or really all human beings, what are we stewards of, and for Whom?”
    3-we’ll try to understand, per St. Paul’s words, how to exercise good Christian stewardship.
    A steward is “one who is entrusted with the management of property, finances, or other affairs that are not his own.” A steward is trusted, by someone else, to care for things that don’t belong to him. So stewardship defines the way a steward cares for things entrusted to him. Good stewardship is caring for the property of another in a way they would approve of. Bad stewardship is failing to care for the property of another in a way they would approve of. The Scriptures reveal that all created things are created for mankind, are gifts to mankind from God. So, the things we are stewards of are given to us by God. All things belong to God, and we are simply to care for and appropriately use what He allows us to have while we’re on this earth. What are the things we’re steward of? The Scriptures tell us, everything. Our own bodies are not even our own. We literally would have nothing, we would not exist if we weren’t given life and existence and sustenance from God. We’re stewards of our own existence, for in truth, we belong to another. We’re given life, breath, the Holy Spirit; we’re created in the image of God. We’re graced with certain talents, spiritual and physical and intellectual gifts. All that we possess on any level, we have from God. We’re stewards for God—we’re to manage the things of God in a way that will be well pleasing to Him. And we know from Christ’s parable of the talents (explain) that if we’re not good stewards of the things we’ve received from God, then we risk their being taken away. So how does God want us care for what we’ve been given by Him? St. Paul writes, he who sows sparing will reap sparingly, and he who sows abundantly will reap abundantly. If we share our talents with others for the glory of God—whether our talents are physical or financial or spiritual—when we use these talents for the glory of God, then St. Paul says we will reap abundantly. For God loves a cheerful giver, he writes. When we share out of our abundance, and we do it willingly, and we do it to the glory of the Kingdom, then we’ll be blessed. The problem with preaching this passage as only being about money comes in here. The blessings we’re promised, the abundant harvest, means that God will pour out on us His blessings which are for our salvation. This isn’t a materialistic tit-for-tat. This isn’t, give to the poor or tithe, and you’ll be blessed financially. Perhaps that will be what God chooses to do. But what St. Paul is exhorting us to do is to cheerfully share everything that God has given us, and he’s reminding us that when we do this God will pour out His blessings on us. God will give us abundantly all the things we need for our salvation. All of God’s gifts are given for our salvation, for the building up of the Kingdom. So to exercise good Christian stewardship, God wants us to share, to give away our talents. When the Fathers talk about the spiritual life (and we can expand this to cover all areas of life), they warn us not to horde fruit, but to share it with others so that they could be edified, and so that we can be ready for God to continue blessing us. A final important reminder from St. Paul—may He Who supplies the seed…multiply and increase the fruits. God provides the seed (the talent that we’re given to share). As we say near the end of Liturgy—every good thing comes from the Father of Lights. We sow the seeds which are given by Another, and He multiplies and grows and gives the fruit. And to tie into the Archbishop’s wonderfully homily from last week about going into our cities and towns as fisherman for Christ—the greatest gift of God to mankind is the gift of His Son. And we have this talent in its fullness, in the Church. A talent that we’re called to share with everyone we meet. We’re called to use our gifts in whatever way we possibly can to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those around us. So as we go through our days, when we think about my Church, or my job, or my money, or my intelligence—remember that all these things are given to us by God to be shared with others for the building up of the Kingdom. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!