By Fr. Shnork Souin, Pastor
God has blessed us with many gifts and talents through which we can bring glory to God. These gifts are manifest most perfectly when they are shared for the common good, for God and for the sake of God’s people. The Holy Scriptures and the tradition of our church fathers encourage us to share of all that we are and of all that we have — Of our Time, and of our Talent, and of our Treasures.
It is at times hard to see past our own needs and wants, and to focus on our deficiency. Nevertheless, God empowers the faithful to do His will and in discernment and with spiritual maturity, realize that the gifts are His and we are merely their stewards. “But who am I and who are my people, that We should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and We have given you only what comes from your hand.” 1 Chronicles 29:14. St. Gregory of Datev (1346-1440) teaches that “We must offer to God a portion of everything we possess. A human being is made of soul, body and possessions. The soul offers prayers; the body; prostrations; and from our possessions a portion to God.”
Many will say, “but I am a member of the church.” Who are members of the church and who are the stewards? Members are those who commit to the annual membership dues of $175 or $125 for students and seniors. Membership has its privileges and responsibilities. Recognizing the significant role, the church plays in your life, you want to support her mission. As a member, you have the privilege of participating in the decision-making process by attending and voting at the Annual Parish Assembly (dues must be paid in full by year-end in order to vote). Our parish provides outstanding scholarship opportunities for the children of members to Diocesan summer camps and St. Nersess as well as a partial qualification for the annual Jerusalem Pilgrimage for young adults. Members can also qualify for full scholarships and academic scholarships through the Diocese and Sports Committee as well as qualify to receive reduced sacrament and offering fees as well as reduced fees for church hall and facility rentals.
Stewards are members who contribute to the church over and beyond the standard membership dues of $175 per member each according to their ability. You may ask, “Why should I become a steward?
As a steward, you participate in the implementation and realization of programming and projects which support the church’s ministry and mission. Our Lord Jesus Christ says, “Give, and it shall be given to you. . . For with the measure you use, it shall be measured to you.” Luke 38
Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams. Mal. 3:10
Christian Stewardship is a grateful and responsible use of God’s gifts in the light of God’s purpose as revealed in Jesus Christ. Christian stewards, empowered by the Holy Spirit, commit themselves to conscious, purposeful decisions. Stewardship is lived out in living and telling the Good News, sharing with God in seeking justice, peace, and the integrity of creation, wisely employing God-given human resources, abilities, and relationships, sharing the material resources we hold and giving them in service, justice, and compassion, providing for future generations, sharing in the life, worship, and responsible stewardship of the Church and of its mission. Stewardship for both the individual and for the community, is a joyful act for the sake of God’s world.
Stewardship of God’s gifts can be easily demonstrated in the management of Time, Talent and Treasure.
The Gift of Time – The Great Commission is the normative mission statement for the church. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a RSV). It is through our Missionary giving of time that we can make Christ known to those who know Him not.
The Gift of Talent – Christian stewardship is using the gifts God has given us, to do the work God is calling us to do. Discerning and carrying out God’s purpose is the primary purpose of our lives. The primary role of the church is to guide individuals in discernment of the mission for their lives and the use of their resources in accomplishing it. Do you hear a call to be truer to your Christian beliefs? What gifts do you have that can be offered to Glorify God?
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 1:1-8
Gift of Treasure– How we use money says more about our value system than anything we say or do. Some would think that the way we handle our money is a window into our souls. There is such great joy and comfort in giving. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
In funding ministry, there are three faces of financial stewardship. Annual giving (ordinary stewardship) is the regular practice of returning to God a portion of all that God has given us. Capital giving (extraordinary stewardship) involves the special occasions that arise in the life of Christian communities that call us to give beyond our ordinary habit. Legacy giving (legacy stewardship) is the way in which we address the matter of disposing of the accumulations of our lifetime or by remembering the church as a beneficiary of a will.
The giving of monetary gifts, from the treasury of our labors, is a most tangible way to express our love and thanksgiving to God. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7.
Please consider the many options and diverse ways that you can include the church in your stewardship. You can choose any amount according to what you purpose in your heart. You can handle it on a regular basis, periodically or all at once. You may wish to add an amount to your regular annual dues and or you might even begin thinking and praying about the long-term establishments of wills and bequeaths. If you have any questions about your many options, please feel free to contact me for a very confidential conversation about stewardship. You may notice that on this year’s dues statement, there is a section for a stewardship contribution if you choose to proceed this way.
The scripture teaches that the greatest joy comes from giving, for “it is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35) for “You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings.” Deuteronomy 15:10, Amen.