On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 65: Life Lived in Vain

For you yourselves know, brethren, that our visit to you was not in vain…” (1 Thessalonians 2:1 RSV)

Our Western society spends a great amount of time doing trivial things. We watch a great deal of mindless television programs. We spend an excessive part of our days surfing the world-wide web or playing video games or reading frivolous writings that are published as literature. The son of David, king in Jerusalem, Ecclesiastes (the Preacher) says this of life: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2 RSV).

Vanity, or things done in vain, are things that have no value. Fifty years ago, “futurists” were warning that our generation would have too much leisure time. Those futurists appear to be correct. We have idolized our free time. We use our free time for vanity – as late as two generations ago, people did not have much leisure time as they sought their next meal, or worked overtime just to make it. We, however, in our own generation have time to spare: time to surf, play, check email, tweet, update Facebook, send text messages, watch NFL games (again and again), etc., etc.

When St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians that his visit with them was not in vain, he meant that he had come there for a purpose. And He fulfilled that purpose. Paul came to Thessalonica through much suffering, in order to bring the Good News of salvation through Christ to them. Paul and the Thessalonians knew of God’s purpose. They also knew that the time was short for them. The earliest Christians expected the immediate return of Christ, and lived that way. There was no time for vain activities.

Good stewards know the value of time. They put their time to good use. Stewards recognize that God has created us and this world for a purpose. And that purpose is that we honor God with our time and our treasure. When some time in the future, the world realizes that surfing the net and watching TV are simply activities in vain, what will it have to turn to? It remains to us who understand and undertake the task of stewardship to be constantly ready to provide real life to those whose life has just been a series of things done in vain.

Good stewards must live a life that makes it possible at any time to share that life with those who need it. This fulfills God’s purpose. Good stewards must be so good at prayer and study that others can learn from them. Good stewards must be so good at sharing that no one is ever without necessities. Good stewards must be so good in their disciplined life that they always have time for anyone in need. Good stewards put away all those things that are done simply in vain.

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

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