On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 106: How Much Do I Owe?
“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come; follow me.” (Matthew 19: 21 RSV)
Many of the Orthodox parishes still operate under a "dues system." These are the parishes that are not only struggling financially but in a lack of ministries.
In many of the preceding parishes, you will hear the question, “How much do I owe?”
We, Orthodox Christians, have to stop thinking of our commitment to Christ's Church as "a bill." The "bill" concept is nonsense.
Moreover, parishes that are financially struggling provide minimal, if any, outreach to the local community.
Financial and time commitments go hand-in-hand. Spreading Orthodoxy to the community is what the Orthodox Church is all about. We cannot to keep Orthodoxy a secret and not tell others. Nor can we keep our parishes ethnic ghettos on the margins of communities. Both are sins.
We are commanded to give generously and joyfully in return for the gifts that God has given us. Don't look at your commitment to the church as a bill, a transaction, but as an opportunity to willingly and cheerfully share the many blessing God has given you. If you must know what is required of you, here it is, EVERYTHING! God wants it all! Christ told the rich man (Matthew 19: 16-22) if he was to be perfect, sell it all and join me, give me all your time, talents and wealth.
The Old Testament system of tithing is used by many parishes and is a good minimum standard for stewardship. The GOA for instance in their Uniform Parish Regulations, Article 18, Section 1 states, “Stewardship is recommended to be 10% of one's annual income as stated in the Holy Scriptures to help meet the financial obligation of the Parish.”
Life circumstances and stages impose financial and time burdens on all of us. It may be difficult to meet a tithing standard financially and with your time, but the standard used should be proportional based on what God has blessed you. If it cannot be ten percent, try five percent. If nothing else, begin at one percent and make a commitment to raise it one percent each year until you have reached your goal. Holy Scripture tells us the rich man was to give one hundred percent, Joachim (the Father of the Theotokos) sixty-six percent, Zacchaeus fifty percent plus four times any which he wronged.
Be a cheerful giver, give your time, talent and resources. Give in proportion to what you received not some fixed arbitrary number that you happen to choose. Bill Marianes, GOA, a Stewardship Calling Evangelist, hits the nail on the head, “I believe stewardship is what you do with all the gifts God gave you. ALL of those gifts. So if you want to be judged as a great steward, then be generous with all the gifts that you have been given by your Father. Or you can choose not to live the kind of life Christ taught, and you can just do whatever you want to do.”
Each day look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are giving back to God in proportion to what He has given you. Only two know the answer, you and God!
This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.
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