On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 66: Motivation

“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1 RSV)

There were certain religious people in the time of Christ whose aim it was to practice their religion in order to be seen by others, and thus gain some worldly (or heavenly) honor. Such persons attracted attention to themselves and thus tried to gain a reputation for their “religiousness.”

Christ Jesus was clearly opposed to such an approach. God does not recognize practicing religion in that way. The only reward for such persons would ultimately be the admiration of others – God would look the other way.  Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:2-4 RSV).

This does not mean that every act of kindness should always be kept secret. Apostle St. Paul told the Corinthian Christians this about their generosity: I boast about you to the people of Macedonia … your zeal has stirred up most of them” (2 Corinthians 9:2).

Christ Himself made it clear: in acts of giving (stewardship) the aim should not be to receive praise and honor in return. Those who do their acts of giving and kindness out of a motivation for praise from others are misunderstanding Christ’s words “…Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them.” By their actions, Christians are to bring glory not upon themselves, but to the Holy One by whose grace and power they are given both the opportunity and the means to act.

Whether it be in prayers, in the giving of support, in acts of kindness and self-denial, in whatever actions one carries out as an Orthodox Christian, self is not ever the theme. In conversation and communication, all glory belongs to the Father in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

King David, the greatest of the Kings of Israel and forefather of Christ Himself, learned that lesson the hard way. He was a proud and mighty King who wanted all for himself – all the power and glory. When he was humbled due to his own pride, he came to understand. This is what he wrote: “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to thy name give glory, for the sake of thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness” (Psalm 113:9 LXX).

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

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