In light of the Gospel and Christian Tradition, it is appropriate for the Church to be a real item in the budget of each family and each individual. The concept of total commitment, which is the only acceptable way of life for a Christian, means that we must begin, as indeed many parishes have already done, to encourage people to consider seriously the urgency of adopting the pledge system, tithe, or any other system in which they could give freely and generously to God’s work, to respond to the responsibility of mission, to complete the work of sanctification of their whole lives.Parishes, in their turn, rather than being selfishly turned in upon themselves must make the work of the whole Church and the carrying out of its mission their own concern. This means that parish budgets should include regular and generous contributions and allotments to work outside their own boundaries — to mission, to education (particularly to seminaries), and to works of mercy.
Finally, it should be understood that there is a close relationship between the spiritual life and one’s financial commitment to the Church. Over and over again in the Bible, it is made clear that one’s willingness to give of his possessions to God’s work is the measure of his willingness to give himself, and one’s self if the only acceptable offering. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34)” From an article by Archbishop Dmitri.
Children and Stewardship
We have mentioned in the past that part of training our children to be “Good Christians” is to instruct them in the ways of being “Good Stewards” of what has been given to them. The following may be found in materials on Stewardship published by the Orthodox Church in America. “At about two years old, children realize as they participate in the Divine Liturgy that an offering is taken. When they notice the offering basket or plate passing in front of them, when they become aware that mommy and daddy are putting something in it, they are ready to participate as well. Without a doubt, their first experience of offering will simply be the act of placing in the offering basket money supplied by a parent. The act itself, however, will be that of the child. As children get older, other means of instruction can be enacted related to time, talents, monetary gifts, and monthly allowances, with an eye toward training our youth in proper stewardship, and to becoming responsible adult leaders in our Church communities.” We will print more information on “Children and Stewardship,” from the Orthodox Church in America in future bulletins.
The Spiritual Dimension of Money
From materials available from the Department of Stewardship of The Orthodox Church in America: “We must become deeply convinced that the relationship of a person and his money is fundamentally a spiritual matter, as filled with implications for an individual’s spiritual life, as is his life of prayer or any other “religious” activity. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is there shall your heart be also.” Somehow, in some way, what a person does with his money, how he thinks about it, where he spends it, what he will do to earn it, and the things to which he will give it, are some of the real clues to who he is inside, to what is essentially important to him, to what is really in his heart…The places where we make our most serious investments are the places where our real self, our inner self, is going to be most interested, most teachable, most responsive, and most open. To deal with a person in terms of what he does with his money is to deal with most people where they really live. A properly conceived stewardship effort in the Church can thus be an avenue to genuine spiritual growth. Good stewardship has that potential. That…is something of what Jesus meant when He said, “Where your treasure is there shall your heart be also.” It is, therefore, extremely important that we begin to recover a soundly Orthodox theological base for our stewardship efforts. A well-conceived, theologically sound stewardship program can be the most exciting spiritual adventure one can undertake in parish life.”
Archpriest Anthony Scott writes: “Good stewardship shapes the proper life of a Christian in the Church. It allows the Christian to stand before the Holy Trinity in a state of profound gratitude. Good stewardship also shapes the proper relationship between a Christian and his or her possessions. In the practice of good stewardship the Christian is freed from the debilitating fear of insufficiency and the avariciousness that results from feeling deprived. The joyful freedom of life in expanding, unending abundance is the gift of God to the good steward. Corporate good stewardship in a parish improves the quality of spiritual life for the community. It allows the parish to fulfill its mission in fidelity to the gospel through a proper alignment of values and priorities…”Fr. Anthony Scott has served as a parish priest and as the chief development officer for St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, and now is president of Stewardship Advocates, an Orthodox planning and church development organization. He is also the editor of Good and Faithful Servant: Stewardship in the Orthodox Church.
Modern Man and the Tithe
The following is from an article written by His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri: “Throughout the Old Testament, the sign of man’s offering of himself was his offering from what he produced. Such offering, regularly the tithe or the tenth (Leviticus 27:30-32), was holy and in turn sanctified the rest of his possessions. So when Man produced things, the works of his hands, the produce of the land, cattle or other animals, it was the tenth part of those things that he offered. In modern society, the only thing that Man produces is money. He usually works for a salary or he invests money and increases his holding through interests and dividends. To this pursuit of making money he dedicates most of his time and energy, that is, he devotes himself. Unless a certain part of his modern product is consciously and premeditatedly dedicated to God, to His work, and to the extension of His kingdom among men, then donations, gifts and (Church) dues are merely token amounts. The amount of one’s gift and the spirit in which it is made indicate the relative importance that God and His Church hold in the heart of the giver.The eighth and ninth chapters of St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians contain the whole theology of Christian giving (this was related in detail in last month’s bulletin)…Truly, if each Christian followed the principles of giving as outlined by St. Paul, there would be no need for any kind of fund-raising events or (special) assessments.”
Worship and Money
From an article by His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri: “It may be startling to hear that the giving of money is an integral part of worship and can in no way be divorced from the spiritual life. But such is the case, for there is no worship without giving or offering. The Christian’s life demands a total consecration to God, and this means that every aspect of his life must be sanctified. No one part of his life can be reserved and kept as a purely material, this-worldly concern, for when one refuses to let his wealth be sanctified, then it can become the root of all evils, and stand between him and God. In commenting on 1 Timothy 6:10, St. John Chrysostom says, “but this root is from us, and not from the nature of the things.” The young man thought he was just, because he kept all the commandments, but went away sad when he learned that the one thing needful for him was to part with his wealth (Matthew 19:22).”
The Spiritual Meaning of Money
For the Third All American Council in 1972, His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri wrote an article which talked about the spiritual meaning of money. The following excerpt is from that article. “The 8th and 9th chapters of St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians contain the whole theology of Christian giving. Although he is speaking about a collection of the relief of the Christians at Jerusalem, he reveals a number of universal truths about giving.“Giving represents the degree of a Christian’s devotion, and is a means of grace (8:1 and 8:8). It is part of the Christian life and even proof of one’s love (8:24 and 8:7). Christian giving is sacrificial (Mark 12:43-44), and our Lord’s emptying Himself and becoming poor for our sakes is the basis for the call to Christians to sacrifice (8:9). Giving must be in proportion to what one has, though the Macedonians had given even more than they were able (8:3). It must be voluntary (8:12) and cheerful (9:7). Giving provides a good example to others and is the occasion for thanksgiving (9:11-12).
“In light of the clear teaching of the Gospel, each Christian must give according to his means. This implies that he must dedicate regularly a part of his income to God’s work (ideally a tithe, or even more if he is especially blessed, materially)…
“When real Christian giving becomes general in our Churches then so much of the energy and time that is expended in parishes (in other pursuits) can be given over to knowing the saving faith of Christ, to preaching the Gospel, and to deepening the spiritual life.”
Tithing and Youth
If giving back to God from the blessings we have received is indeed part of our spiritual life, then stewardship, like prayer, should begin at a young age. We can hear what one Christian writer has to say specifically about youth and tithing. “Tithing ought to begin in childhood. If boys and girls have the example of their parents to encourage them the decision to tithe will not be a difficult one to make. Even if parents do not tithe, children readily respond to the suggestion that God has given us so much that it is only right that we should set aside a portion of all we receive and bring it as an offering to the church, or use it to help those in need. ”Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Although the tithe itself is mentioned sparingly in the New Testament, the subject of money is discussed directly and with great frequency. “Almost every one of the Gospels and the Epistles gives a prominent place to a discussion of the relationship between money and a vital (living) faith in God.” A few key passages come to mind from the many that exist: The Widow’s Mite in Luke 21 and Mark 21; “It is more blessed to give than to receive” in Acts 20:35; and “He who sows either sparingly or bountifully will reap accordingly for God loves a cheerful giver” in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. For Christian living in what has been called a “materialistic society” the tithe and proper stewardship of God’s gifts, “is an essential step in moving away from materialism to an abundant life in Christ.” (Some of the above taken from the book, “Spiritual Life Through Tithing” by G. Ernest Thomas.)
Last month we began our stewardship entries with a definition of tithing and an explanation of the purpose and spiritual benefits of this practice.Although many Christians tithe faithfully of their income every month, there is a belief among some that tithing is non-traditional, something that is stressed mainly in a Protestant context but not in Orthodoxy. For Orthodox Christians it would be helpful for us to hear the words of one of our beloved Saints: John Chrysostom (347 to 407 A.D.) His teaching serves to stress that tithing is strong in our own Tradition and is something toward which we should be striving. St. John says:
“For what, in dealing with this obligation (tithing) did the Jews not do? They contributed tithes, and tithed again for the orphans, widows and proselytes. Now, however, we are wont to hear such and such a one say with astonishment, ‘So and so gives tithes!’ How great a disgrace, I ask, is this: that what among the Jews was no matter of astonishment or celebrity has now among Christians become a matter of surprise. If it were a dangerous thing (spiritually) to fail in giving tithes then, to be sure, it is much more dangerous now” (i.e. for Christians, in the days following the coming of Christ).
We start with the question, “What is Tithing?” Tithing is the regular habit by which a Christian, who seeks to be faithful to what has been entrusted to him, sets aside and offers at least 10 percent of his income in thankful remembrance of God’s gifts, and to acknowledge God’s ownership of all earthly resources. Tithing is not practiced to buy favors from God, but to pay honor to the Heavenly Father Who is the source of every material blessing. Tithing is a God-given practice, reflected in Scripture, impressing upon man that he does not own the material world; he is merely a temporary steward, a care-taker of that which God ultimately possesses. (A portion taken from, Spiritual Life Through Tithing, by G. Earnest Thomas.)