Stewardship (by Letta Kochalis)
As a former Parish Council member, I listened and learned, and one thing stands out, which should be of primary importance in our lives as Orthodox Christians, and that is Stewardship. We know that Stewardship involves giving of our time, our talents and our treasures. Our time is precious, but it would be well served to offer our time back to God, for He gave us life. Our talents, should be offered back to His Church, whether we are accountants, cooks, web designers, teachers, lawyers, business owners, homemakers, secretaries, or work in the trades, all of these talents are needed as Stewardship to the Church, for God gave us these talents. And our treasures should be offered back to God because prosperity is God’s gift as well. It is our treasures I would like to address.
I asked the Ministries Committee for figures so we could get the big picture of where our Stewardship tithing stands today.
Our beloved Holy Cross Church has 193 Stewards for 2009
The budget is $277,000 for 2010, which amounts to $760 per day
The Stewardship tithes were as follows:
- 4 (which is 2%) of Stewards tithed less than $100
- 13 (which is 6.5%) of Stewards tithed in the $100 range
- 51 (which is 26%) of Stewards tithed in the $200 range
- 64 (which is 33%) of Stewards tithed in the $300 range
- 33 (which is 17%) of Stewards tithed in the $400 range
- 12 (which is 6%) of Stewards tithed in the $500 range
- 5 (which is 2.5%) of Stewards tithed in the $600 range
- There we no tithes in the $800 or $900 range
- 8 (which is 4%) of Stewards tithed in the $1,000 range
So by adding the mid-range of each category, (to get an average) this amounts to roughly $82,000 or 30% of our budget. The remaining 70% must come from fundraising, the two offering trays each Sunday, candles purchased in the narthex, the annual Greek Fest picnic, and the three feast day appeals; (Pascha, our Feast of the Holy Cross, and Christmas).
Now that we see the financial side of Stewardship tithing; let’s look at Stewardship tithing from the heart.
We know the world we live in, is very demanding, however, we should never forget that we are foremost Orthodox Christians in this world, no matter what we do in our daily lives. We wake up as Orthodox Christians and go to sleep as Orthodox Christians. The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit has been given to us at our baptism, and this is a great mystery, the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us – it is permanent.
What gift could we possibly give back to God, that would even remotely compare to God bringing salvation to the world through His Son, our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ? We should begin with giving of our first fruits, not our leftovers. If we give of our first fruits, in faith, thanksgiving and not grumbling, our Lord will provide for us abundantly. He chides us for not trusting in His ability to take care of our needs. Provision doesn’t always come in monetary form but in good health, happiness and harmony in our families, being taken care of in times of need.
The secular world stresses money to the point that no matter how much we have, we still want more. If we make materialism our god, then we will never be happy nor understand the meaning of Stewardship. In Jesus’ parables he refers to Stewards (as managers) of households or managers of vineyards. We are the Stewards (or managers) of our Church, which is God’s house and we are His people. Instead of seeking worldly possessions, our Lord tells us to seek the Kingdom of Heaven first, and all things shall be granted unto us. Are we seeking His Kingdom?
How then do we become true Stewards? We must go through a Metanoia (changing of our mind) in order to realize that God is the center of our Stewardship. We must change the paradigm. It should not be looked upon as “here they go again asking for more money”!
The secular world distracts us from God. We have become insatiable consumers due to all the advertising on TV, mailings, and internet, not being able to distinguish between our needs from our wants. We unquestioningly take care of ourselves by leasing luxury cars, buying grandiose homes, refinancing mortgages to tap the equity on our homes, taking home improvement loans, putting vacations on credit cards, buying the latest electronic devices and big screen TV’s, – all of these require much money. Then when we receive mailings from Church asking for our Stewardship tithe, or the feast day offerings of Pascha, our Feast of the Holy Cross, or Christmas, this is where our excuses come in, that we can’t afford to give any more. Why is that? Because we spend everything on ourselves first. Let’s put God first where He belongs! This, however, is our personal decision. This is a reflection of our love for Christ and His Church. We are the body Christ and we are His Stewards.
Let’s count our blessings, for they are many. When we plan our budgets, let’s put God first and then budget for our needs (basic necessities) and then our wants (everything else). Let’s step up, as the Church, and give an additional $100.00 each year, over the last year pledge, (this amounts to $8.33 extra each month). Let’s offer our financial stewardship tithe at the beginning of the year, as a first fruit offering, rather than and at the end of the year, to see what we have left over. When I was waiting to get my taxes done, a gentleman was finishing up with the accountant, and he asked what his gross income was so he could tithe 10% to his church. The accountant showed him his completed tax form and this man immediately wrote a check and put it in an envelope. I was humbled seeing this first hand. If we figured out our Stewardship tithe for 2009, what percent bracket would we be in? So, do the numbers discussed earlier reflect our love for Christ, or do they reflect our secular worldly thinking.
Let’s also increase our donations to the offering trays each Sunday. We’ve been putting $1.00 into the trays for the last 30 years and longer. What does $1.00 buy us today and what is it actually worth? We don’t hesitate to buy 20 $1.00 lottery tickets in hopes of hitting it big, but we give $1.00 per tray to our Church, where salvation is offered freely to those who aspire towards it. How can this be? Let’s not look around to see what the next person is doing, because what we give is directly related to our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ and not our neighbor.
God wishes to be in communion with us, He has gone out of His way (being offered up to crucifixion of His own will) to initiate a rich, wonderful fellowship to which He is calling us, even now! How do we respond to God’s love? Simply said, we offer ourselves back to God in order to be partakers of His divine love and fellowship.
And especially we must preserve the heritage of apostolic doctrine intact for future generations. This is our Stewardship which is fulfilled by giving our time, our talents, and our treasures back to God.