On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 102: Passions prevent Stewardship
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the spirit...[and] prevent you from doing what you would." (Galatians 5: 16-17, RSV)
We were all born in the image of Christ, as were Adam and Eve. As they were spiritual children, not fully matured into the likeness of Christ, so too are we. Along that journey to attaining the image AND likeness of Christ – Theosis – there are pitfalls, as Adam and Eve discovered. These pitfalls are the desires of the material world (fleshly desires), which we ALLOW to capture our soul, our nous, and turn the pure passions that God placed into us into something dark and vile.
Once your nous is darkened, according to Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos in his book, Orthodox Psychotherapy, you cannot be in communion with God. If we live for the world and not for God then we become self-love, the root of all sin. When we love ourselves, our personal comforts and our desires become the priority.
Instead of giving generously from what God has given us, we then ask and become of mind, "What does the Church need?" That should never be a question an Orthodox Christian asks. There is only one question that should be asked and it should be: "How on earth are we going to spend all this money?!” - or - “How can I use all these people who are volunteering their time and talents?!" If the preceding questions are asked our Church is embodied with God's beauty and love.
People often ask how much I should give, ten percent? That would be wonderful! It is the Old Testament teaching; Christ wants everything, your time, your talents and your wealth. He wants you to love him more than anything else; Philotimo is a powerful Greek word, a nearly indescribable word, of great indebtedness. It is an inner disposition of love, words, and deeds. God wants you to think of Him, to be with Him, every minute of every day. So profound is God's love for man, that is why we were created, to be in constant communion with Him.
What keeps us from communion with God are the passions that darken the nous and lead us to self-love and sin.
God does not seek all you possess, but only that you give in proportion to what God has given you. Is that asking too much? Imagine a world in which everyone gave of their time, talents and treasure in proportion to what God has given them! There would never be a cry for help from the Church. It would be quite the reverse. In its abundance the Church would reach out to the world.
There are times when the passions of our heart have allowed us to foolishly believe that we can control the Church (and the priest!) by keeping them asking for more – more talent and more treasure. The pursuit of power, for the sake of power, is inherently evil. The pursuit of the passion of power, embodied in the lack of generosity, makes heaven a miserable place for us. In contrast, God's heaven and love is a "ridiculously generous place" (as stated by Father Barnabus Powell, GOA and AFR).
I pray we all understand that God loves us so much that He wants us to be His sons and daughters. He gave us eternal life and we cannot give it back! Eternal life is ours, whether we want it or not. The only question begged is: What will our eternal life be?!
We sing at Pascha, "Christ has risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tomb restoring life." He gave life and will continue to give life to those in the tomb. We are going to live for eternity! Will we be miserable or joyful? I pray for all it is the latter. While I pray, I know the choice is yours to make.
Don't let the desires of this world and the passions associated with them turn your eternity into a hell. Shed the passions of self-love and greed, let the Church through its Spiritual Medicine restore your nous to its natural state and be illumined with the love of Christ. Practice true Christian generosity which Christians have practiced for over 20 centuries; a "normal Christianity." Be a good steward of your time, talent, and treasure and give generously to God's Holy Church.
This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.
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