On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 83: The Gift of Generosity

“Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over him who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” (Psalm 37:7 RSV)

This Psalm ponders how well the wicked appear to fare in this life. The Psalmist finds this not only unjust but distasteful. The situation is often pondered even today, more than two thousand years later. We today often compare our own situations in life with others who seem to thrive due to “ill-gotten gains.” We work and play by the rules, yet never seem to get ahead. The Psalm, however, is clear: “Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil” (Psalm 37:7 RSV).

There has always existed those in the churches some form of what has been called the “gospel of prosperity.” This corrupt understanding of the Holy Gospels urges believers to give to God so that God will give back to them. Ben Franklin wrote that God helps those who help themselves. Those who preach the gospel of prosperity also use that Franklin slogan as if it were from the Bible itself.

This Psalm provides sage advice for those who are fretting over the gospel of prosperity. It advises Christian stewards: “Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security” (Psalm 37:3 RSV). This is a total reversal of that prosperity Gospel. God is not good to us because we first give to Him. Rather, God frees us from our insecurities about earthly things so that we may then give to and for others. We do this by offering to God our gifts and talents.

And then what happens? The Psalm tells us clearly: “…wait patiently for him.” Wait. Be patient. Wait on Him! Oh how hard this is in our world today. To wait. And wait. And wait. We want what we want, and we want it now! It is God who prepares life for us. It is not something that, as the TV commercials proclaim, we “grab by the horns.”

God offers us prosperity as a gracious gift. There are no strings attached. There is no way to “buy” it by our stewardship. There is no way to get by giving. God in His graciousness supplies our needs, not our wants. James Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China in the nineteenth century said, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack for God’s supply.”

The great stewardship gift given by God is the gift of generosity.    

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

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