On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 51: Stewards and the Poor I

“For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them…” (Mark 14:7 RSV)

Between the 9th and 15th centuries in Europe, society was structured around a three-fold division of members of that society. Those three were lords, vassals, and peasants. The relationship between the three was determined by the lords, the highest of these “classes” of people. The lords were the landowners who granted parcels of land to the vassals in exchange for their military or other service to the lords. A peasant, the lowest of the three “classes” could move up by offering his service to a lord (as well as his everlasting loyalty) and receiving land in return. Among the peasants were the serfs who provided the labor on the land. The lands and titles were passed on from generation to generation as time went by.

Omitted from this list of society’s “classes” were the poor. Not only were the poor not permitted to own land, they were kept on the fringe of society, and thus were without possibility of moving up the social ladder.

It is said that this “feudal” system was eliminated with the coming of a free society, dominated by capitalism. Thus, anyone with sufficient education, motivation and skill could amass any amount of “capital” (money) as possible. Hardly did this new idea of a free society eliminate feudalism. It only re-arranged the classes of society. Now, instead of lords, vassals, and peasants, there are the super rich, the very rich, and the rich.

Still eliminated from society are the poor. They are kept on the fringe of society because (it is said) they lack the education, motivation and skill to become part of one of the three classes of the rich. History has changed little. Pride of rank or class or social standing and the resultant oppression of the poor have always been with us. Unfortunately, it is also this way among Christians.

Several years ago, I attended the Easter service in a major protestant cathedral in this country. The service was filled with pomp and circumstance. The pews were filled to capacity with the front several rows reserved for those who arrived in the best automobiles driven with the finest chauffeurs. The setting was beautiful. And if you came in off the street, without proper attire? You were ushered to the side chapel, where you would not be seen. This even in what was called a House of God.

 (continued next week)

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

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