On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 90: Abraham: The Stewardship of Hospitality
“And the Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre.” (Genesis 18:1 RSV)
Among many in Orthodoxy, there is a widespread error about stewardship. This error suggests (if not believes outright) that stewardship has only to do with money. While money is a part of stewardship (where stewardship is understood as a way of life), it is only one rather small part. As we look to Abraham we see an opportunity to understand stewardship as managing all the resources that God has loaned to us. One of those resources is offering hospitality: the gift of welcome.
One day as Abraham was sitting at the door of his tent in the wilderness, three strangers appear approaching his tent. Abraham’s response? He runs to greet them. Running was hardly something a self-respecting head of a large family would do. But as a sign of respect and hospitality, Abraham runs to greet them. “Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I fetch a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on” (Genesis 12:4-5 RSV).
Who are these strangers? Are they o.k.? Are they to be trusted? Are they one of “us”? Why are they coming here? Are these not the questions usually asked about the strangers that show up at our parishes on Sunday morning? Yes – and there are others:
Is one of them going to sit in my pew? Are those people Orthodox? Will their children be quiet? And on and on.
People today still seek salvation. One very important way the Church can help those who are seeking is to offer a warm and hospitable welcome to everyone and anyone who is present. We can only help people who are seeking by first making them feel that they are wanted and needed as people of God. Who knows the motives for their being present: A recent tragedy? A family that has some very practical needs? Someone who is just seeking, or maybe just church shopping?
It makes no difference. It makes no difference at all. All are to be welcomed with the hospitality of Abraham. We are to run to meet the strangers, to offer them rest and a sharing of food with the rest of the community. We are to welcome all and make everyone feel a part of the family. After all, who were those three who visited Abraham? Only later we find out that the three were the Holy Trinity themselves.
St. Paul writes: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2 RSV).
This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.
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