On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 85: Do Not Fret

“…Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil…” (Psalm 37[36]:5 RSV)

The word “fret” is not a common one in our modern usage of the English language. The word means to be constantly or visibly worried or anxious. Its meaning is similar to the words of Christ: “…do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 RSV)

In Psalm 37[36], we find David the Psalmist pondering how well the wicked seem to fare in this life. It is often in our modern life that we find ourselves comparing our own situations in life to others who seem to thrive on what appears to be “ill-gotten gains.” After all, we think, we play by the rules, yet we do not seem to be able to get ahead.

There is a widespread belief in something that has come to be called “the gospel of prosperity.” There are many who believe that one should give to God so that God will give back to them. It was Ben Franklin who wrote that “God helps those who help themselves.” This slogan is used by many who believe in “the gospel of prosperity” to the point that they think the quote actually came from the Bible. It did not.

In Psalm 37[36], David encourages us to “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act…” (Psalm 37[36]:3-5 RSV). God is not good to us because we first give to God. Rather, God frees us from our anxieties about earthly things, and thus allows us to give and share what we have with others.

Our problem seems to be with time. We want what we want, and we want it right now! God says through the Psalmist: Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart -- and that only when God Himself is ready to do so. Hearing God correctly from Psalm 37[36], we must work hard on patient waiting for God. Thus we can correct Ben Franklin with the words of Isaiah the prophet: “God … works for those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4 RSV).

When we look at prosperity around us, let us remember two things: First, by comparison with most in this world, we are very prosperous people. Second, God offers us prosperity as a gracious gift. God owes us nothing. We owe God 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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