On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 23: The Old Tithe – The New StewardshipAn Infant. Some Shepherds. The Magi.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34 RSV)

The system of the tithe (giving 10% of all things received back to God) reaches far back. It reaches back even further than Moses and the Law. The expectation on God’s people has always been that they were to show their thankfulness for God’s mercies and blessings to them by making offerings back to God.

Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God (Hebrews 7:1,2). Patriarch Jacob promised the Lord: “and of all that thou givest me I will give the tenth to thee” (Genesis 28:22 RSV). Under the Old Covenant, the tithe was, at first, voluntary. Later, under the Law of Moses, it became mandatory (Deuteronomy 14:22)

When Paul instructed his people at the Corinthian community, he gave them some general principles underlying the support of God’s work on earth. He asks: “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? … If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits?” (1 Corinthians 9:7,11 RSV). Paul is referring to God’s plan for the support of the work of those who are called and ordained to serve the Church. He asks again: “Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9: 13-14 RSV).

God asks of us no more than He asked of His ancient people. God’s gifts to us are not less, but they are greater than they were to His people of old. The service given to the people of God today by priests and bishops, just as in the days of Moses, requires financial support. The stewardship of our own money (it belongs to God anyway; we are only caretakers while on earth) makes possible the work of the Church. The intention is clear: the support for the ministry of the Gospel through the work of the Holy Orthodox Church must be full and it must be continuous.

Under the Law of Moses, such support through tithing was the Law. There were consequences for failure to tithe. Under the Law of love (the New Commandment, see John 13:34) our stewardship is an act of unselfish kindness for the support of the work of God’s Church. It is a free act. It is a voluntary act. It is an act of thanksgiving. Our stewardship is an act of love.

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

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