On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 57:God-given Talent

“And his gifts were … for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12 RSV)

These days we often hear a description of a sports or entertainment personality as having a “God-given talent.” Perhaps such a description is given when a commentator cannot explain the special ability shown. “God-given talent” covers a multitude of mysteries. It is perhaps like the use of the phrase “act of God” for insurance companies to define things that happen that are beyond human control or explanation.

St. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, finds no mystery in what each one of us is given as talent, and for what it is that the talent is to be used. God gives people gifts “for building up the body of Christ.” By virtue of Baptism and the seal of the Holy Spirit in the Holy Mystery of Chrismation, all Orthodox Christians are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that all other gifts are given “for building up the body of Christ.”

Why is it then that we so often hear around our parishes: “I have to do everything around here!” or “Why don’t others pitch in and help?” One reason may be that entertainment has made us into spectators. We only want to watch others do things for our own enjoyment. Another reason, and this is far more serious, is that too many see the church or the parish as existing for its members. Many see that the church is there simply to meet their personal needs. The questions asked by them are: “What’s in this for me and my family?” or “How can I use God to protect what I think is important?”

The Church does not exist for the sake of its members. The members exist for the sake of the Church. That is the very reason that God has given to each of the members of the Church special and individual gifts for only one reason: “for building up the body of Christ.” Good stewards of their gifts ask these questions: “What can I do for God and for His people?” or “How can God best use the gifts He has given to me?”

St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians describes the many gifts and talents that were abundant in the church found in the city of Ephesus. That church managed its gifts of “apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.” How did they do it? They understood that all had to use their gifts for one reason: “… to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-12 RSV). That is true stewardship of any God-given talent.

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

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