Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On Christian Stewardship III

Dear Parish Faithful,

Here is the third of seven meditations on Christian stewardship - the sharing of time, talent and treasure - from Fr. Stanley Harakas (based on II COR. 9:6-11):

Give from the heart. Of course the Apostle is speaking of the heart that is submitted to the Lord. A heart which belongs to the Lord neither grudges nor feels compulsion to give, but shares in the manner in which the Lord gives, "pressed down ... and running over." (Lk. 6:38)

"The ethical dimension is also evident in this passage that expands and gives content to the affirmation that inner dispositions form the important ethical aspect of stewardship. In Orthodox spiritual thought, the heart is central to the Christian life.* The heart that is in union with God "neither grudges nor feels compulsion to give," precisely because it has reached the level of true freedom to be itself. Orthodox ethics distinguishes between "free choice" or "self-determination (Gk. autoexousion) on the one hand and the condition of eleutheria, or true freedom, which is when there are no conflicting inner impulses toward action. The goal is for Christians to act in God-like ways, not conflicted by temptations, insecurities, and mental reservations. Such stewardship behavior is free and outpouring and "shares in the manner in which the Lord gives." In all likelihood, such a high standard in the practice of stewardship is rarely achieved, but the ethical "ought" pointing to such unconstrained and unreserved motives remains valid and a sought after goal."

* Kallistos Ware defines the heart, in part, as follows: "HEART (kardia): not simply the physical organ but the spiritual centre of man's being, man as made in the image of God, his deepest and truest self, or the inner shrine, to be entered only through sacrifice and death, in which the mystery of the union between the divine and the human is consummated."

Fr. Steven

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