On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 73: Present Wrapping

“When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure.’ Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God…’” (Hebrews 10:5-7 RSV)

Many are busy with the pre-Christmas task of wrapping presents that will be given or exchanged on the Great Feast Day of the Nativity of our Lord. Gifts have been shared between people for countless millennia. The gifts themselves may have little value, or may be very valuable. But the purpose of gift-giving lies in the relationship that exists between the giver and the receiver.

In the Biblical accounts of the history of God’s people, there existed what was called a covenant, an agreement, between God and His people. He would be their God. They would be His people. This agreement was sealed with the laws and rules that were summarized in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). Further, God’s people were to give proper worship and sacrifice in the tabernacle and the temple – in fact, anywhere the people were, they were to offer “burnt offerings and sin offerings” according to the laws laid down by God. If the people would offer these gifts to God, God would give back to them His great gift of the Promised Land. It didn’t happen. They got to that Land. But then God’s people were conquered and hauled off into exile. The lost the gift that was the Land of Promise. Why?

In the course of history, God’s people seemed very good at providing to God “burnt offerings and sin offerings.” What they failed to do was God’s will. There was far more to God’s agreement with His people than just keeping the laws about worship. The people seemed to forget the rest of the Ten Commandments. They had wrapped up their gifts of “burnt offerings and sin offerings” but had broken their relationship to God that had been outlined in the Ten Commandments. It was like giving a Christmas gift to someone you either do not know, or maybe actively dislike. It is no gift at all.

Good stewards give gifts to God regularly. Those gifts might be monetary offerings to the local parish; they might be time spent teaching or supervising the children of the parish; they might be shoveling snow or cutting the grass or sweeping the sidewalk or buying groceries for someone who just can’t do that anymore. Good stewards do these things because they have developed a relationship with God. They love God. They love His Holy Orthodox Church. And what do good stewards receive as their gift? Good stewards have already received their gift – packaged in “swaddling” cloths and lying in a cave. The gift has been given: Christ our Lord.

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

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