Every Church-going Christian has at some point in his life heard the word STEWARDSHIP. For some Christians, this word means everything but for some it is just an unknown word or a concept which implies giving money to the Church for no obvious reason. All these varied definitions of stewardship are true, based on the understanding of the individuals which say them. However, as is the case with anything else in the Church, there can be only one explanation of what this term implies. In the following text, we will find out that stewardship is not just a word, but a way of life tightly connected with Orthodox Spirituality and our salvation. There are various definitions of stewardship and here we bring only two:
“Utilizing and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.”
Or another definition:
Investing into our Church for our Salvation and of those who will come after us.
These statements are not mutually exclusive and both fall under the same term: STEWARDSHIP. The first definition is absolutely adequate in the sense that the resources we have as a Church we do have to use for the glory of God and for the betterment of God’s creation. All of us would agree with this! However, the question we must ask ourselves further in relation to both definitions is:
Where do these resources or investments that God wants us to utilize come from?
The answer we find in the book of Acts 4:32 where Luke the Apostle writes: “The multitude of believers was one in heart and soul. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they owned.”
Let us elaborate on this further: The early Christians were a minority in the world; very often persecuted and were not finding refuge in anyone else but God. The places where they would meet God would be their house Churches. They would choose a place of gathering and everyone would act as though the house where they gather is their own. That was their place where they would meet the Lord; the place where they heard Scripture, ate the body and blood of Christ, the place where they would share mutual love and respect and finally, the place which provided them with refuge from the world that often could not understand their ways.
Since they all prayed together in a particular house Church, they understood that the Church they go to needs to be invested in. The Early Christians would then always think about their house Church as the central place of gathering and peace and whatever income or produce they had, a part of it would go to their house Church. This giving to the Church was not compulsory for the Christian communities but in spite of that very few house Churches lacked food or wood for fire or anything other household need. So where did these stewardship resources come from?
From the members of the Church community
But why would they share their goods or invest into their house Church to the point where “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own”?
The answer is simple:
They understood that if they do not take care of the house in which they are meeting the Lord, those meetings would have to come to an end and future generations would have no part in that Church.
Meeting the Lord was precious for the Early Christians to the point that the stewardship of the Early Christians was not something that was demanded or required. The natural instinct of every Christian was to share his property. They would willingly share part of their material goods so that the whole Church community can take advantage of them and find growth and salvation in good stewardship. Stewardship was not the end of a path and the goal in and of itself but the way to something greater and bigger.
STEWARDSHIP AND CHRISTIANITY IN THE 21st CENTURY
Stewardship is relevant for the 21st century and us who live nowadays for various reasons. Although we live in a country where we are not persecuted or humiliated, we as Christians are still not of this world as Paul the Apostle says. This implies that the only place we can feel comfortable in is the place where we meet the Lord and experience heaven, that is, our Church; the place where all the noise of the world stops and God begins to speak. All of us weekly find refuge in our Church. We are communing with the Lord. We listen to the Scriptures and share mutual love and respect and in that spirit we are no different than the early Christian communities founded by the Apostles. Would we ever want to lose that? I hear your answers already: OF COURSE NOT! To that I say our famous AMEN, AMEN AND AMEN and I am adding that if we do not want this to happen to our lovely Church and community, we have to be good stewards of the property which should be common to us all and shared by us. Our investment into our Church and managing resources is not only an investment which opens up the door of paradise for us but also opens up the door to the Grace of God to our kids and the kids of our kids. We want them to experience the same joy we experience every Sunday; we want all of them to be baptized, be married and we want them to meet the Lord in the same place where we are meeting Him today.
So let us not forget that stewardship is something we need and that it is in the very nature of our Christian faith. Both investing and managing resources are important sides of stewardship but the most important side is bigger than the stewardship itself: it is the love for the Lord, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and his house, expressed in the act of stewardship which ultimately leads to the reward for all those God-loving stewards described by Paul the Apostle:
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9.