On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 134: Freedom (2/19/17)

That which was created in every respect in the image of Divinity had to possess in nature a free and independent will.” (St. Gregory of Nyssa, Catechetical Orations 5)

God created man in His image, and that meant that God desires to have man participate in His perfection. St. Gregory of Nyssa in his Discourse on Death states, “It is by his freedom that man is deiform, for independence and autonomy are proper to divine bliss.” Man could not be like God if he did not have freedom of choice. Freedom is a divine characteristic. God gave us the freedom to choose good, to choose God. What benefit would it be to do good if we had no choice in the matter? We could not truly be like God if we lacked the freedom of choice.

So we have the choice of doing good or doing evil. The Holy Fathers tell us that evil is a product of man’s improper use of the freedom of choice. Evil does not exist outside of choice according to St. Gregory of Nyssa. He goes on to state that, “it is free choice which gives evil its substance- it is the false usage of our free will that engendered the impulses toward evil.”

With the improper use of our free will, which in nature is directed to God, we become enslaved to our desires and passions which bring us ephemeral pleasure. We turn from our natural instinct to God to the distorted instinct of His adversary, Satan and the demons. We live to please ourselves. We live to put ourselves ahead of others, ahead of God. We become slaves to our passions. You are no longer free! St. Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, states “He who does not submit his own will to God submits himself to his adversary.” We become pleonexic, the desire for more.

WOW! That is pretty heavy stuff!! Yes, it is. Your salvation is heavy stuff; it is for eternity not ephemeral like our current lives. The good news is that we can change. We can change right now like the penitent thief. God created us to be with Him, to desire to be with Him, to choose Him. Our first step is to stop choosing to want more for ourselves and to start choosing to give more to those that are in need. The practice of good stewardship is the key to changing your life. God has gifted you abundantly. Use some of those gifts of time, talent and treasure to open the door for others. Use your gift of free will to choose to live the life of a steward of God.

Not much of man’s original freedom remains. The demonic powers exert such a strong influence on us and through the passions cause us to lose our freedom that God granted us. Take back what God gave you: live to be in communion with God, use your freedom to choose to be with God. Be a servant (steward) of God.

This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

Mark Your Calendar Now for the 2nd annual Stewardship Retreat will be held September 22-24, 2017.

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