On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 88: Debt III: Parish Debt

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” (Romans 13:8 RSV)

The Old Testament book of Haggai is a prophecy written by Haggai the prophet of whom very little is known. His is a short book, consisting of only two chapters. The historical setting dates around 520 BC before the Temple has been rebuilt. Haggai's message is filled with an urgency for the people to proceed with the rebuilding of the second Jerusalem temple.

The first chapter of Haggai contains a harsh criticism of the people of God: Thus says the Lord of hosts: this people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord… then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, ‘is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes’ (Haggai 1:2-6 RSV). 

While the Prophet is clearly talking about the people’s lack of support for re-building the Temple in Jerusalem, he is just as clearly talking about how the people of God even today fail to support their parish churches. On the one hand, the Temple of God lay in ruins while, on the other hand, the people ate, drank, bought clothes and lived in their paneled homes.

Are we in line for Haggai’s criticism as well? Do our churches “lie in ruins”? Perhaps not in ruins, but many are run-down, in need of repair, or in need of total replacement. But perhaps more importantly, so many of our churches are in severe debt to mortgage companies, banks, and builders. Do we eat, drink, buy clothes and live in paneled homes while the churches are left to fend for themselves?

Some might claim bad management by the previous administration. Some might claim too much was agreed upon originally to create such a debt. And some (many?) might say that their own needs are more important than God’s House. More important than God’s House? Where Christ’s Body and Blood are provided to His people? Where the Word of God is proclaimed and lived? Where babies are baptized and chrismated?

Parish debt is an affront to God. It sends Him a message. What message do we want to send to God?

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

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