On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 80: Looking Back

“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8 RSV)

The Holy Apostle St. Matthew was a rich man. He gained his wealth by means of his work. He was a tax collector, in the employ of the Roman government. He was required to collect taxes from the people in the Roman province of Palestine. The amount of tax that was expected to be paid by the Romans was one amount – the amount of tax collected by the tax collectors was another amount. And the latter amount was higher. In other words, the tax collectors forced people to pay more tax than was required. And the tax collectors pocketed the difference. Tax collectors were cheaters and liars. Matthew the tax collector got rich on his ill-gotten gains.

The Holy Apostles Andrew and Peter were brothers. Both of them worked as fishermen. Every day they would go out to the Sea of Galilee, throw their nets into the sea, gather what fish they could, bring them in, clean their nets, and sell their fish. Some days were good days, others were not. In any case, Peter and Andrew were not rich. Fishing was one of the lowest-paid occupations in the time of Christ. Fishermen were among the poorest of the people of Palestine.

Yet to Matthew in his wealth and Andrew and Peter in their poverty, the same call was made. For Andrew and Peter, the call came at the moment of success, when their nets were filled with fish, and the financial future for each of them was brightest. Matthew was called from his tax collector’s desk. He was probably counting his income for the day. His financial future was brightening each moment. To each – Matthew, Andrew and Peter – came the call to leave everything and follow Jesus.

So it is with everyone. The call, the test is always a choice of which is stronger: the desire to get and keep earthly goods or to be a follower of Christ. And this test does not come just once. It is repeated daily, hourly, minute-by-minute. There is no time and no place where the call to be followers of Christ is not being made. How that call is answered is the key to life as Christian stewards. It is the key to our eternal life.

For no one can answer “yes” to the call of Christ unless his or her whole heart is in the work. No one can answer “yes” the call of Christ unless he counts, like the Holy Apostle St. Paul who writes to the Philippians, “everything” as loss. Yes, we are to count everything as loss because fellowship with Christ surpasses everything – everything!

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

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