St. Michael's Orthodox Church
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
1182 Ashland Street / Greensburg, PA 15601
Stewardship - Time, Talent & Treasure

2023 Stewardship Letter #1

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Luke 12:34

Dear St. Michael’s Family,

God bless you!

What a joy it is to be with you as your priest and pastor, walking with you on the narrow path that leads to life.  This journey is one that is communal in nature – helping, encouraging, and caring for those before us, next to us, and behind us.  Together, as members of the Body of Christ, we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, we serve one another with selfless abandon, share the Good News of our salvation in Christ Jesus, and we invest all the resources of our lives in the Kingdom of Heaven.  There is, after all, no greater treasure than sharing in the goodness and beauty of the life of God. (2 Peter 1:4)

I want you to take just a moment and picture a treasure chest. Not a small box that might hold jewelry on a girl’s nightstand—a large treasure chest, larger than any suitcase you own, larger than any suitcase you’ve ever seen. Picture a massive oak treasure chest, like pirates might have used, with large iron hinges and a huge clasp. The size and age and strength of this strongbox say it was made for the most valuable things. Inside this chest are all of the things you wish could somehow be restored to you. Everything you have lost, everything you know you will lose.

What fills your treasure chest?[1] Perhaps your treasure is gold, silver, precious stones, stocks, commodities, real estate, and cash reserves.  Others of us store up knowledge, academic success, being esteemed at work, sports achievements, valued in our neighborhoods and community clubs. Many have filled their treasure chests with luxurious houses, nice cars, cozy cabins, exotic vacations, designer clothes and fine jewels. Still others have filled their treasure chests with their free time – preferring to spend it only on themselves and the fulfillment of their desires. 

St. Maximos the Confessor writes, “It is not so much because of need that gold has become an object of desire among men, as because of the power it gives most people to indulge in sensual pleasure. There are three things which produce love of material wealth: self-indulgence, self-esteem and lack of faith. Lack of faith is more dangerous than the other two. The self-indulgent person loves wealth because it enables him to live comfortably; the person full of self-esteem loves it because through it he can gain the esteem of others; the person who lacks faith loves it because, fearful of starvation, old age, disease, or exile, he can save it and hoard it. He puts his trust in wealth rather than in God, the Creator who provides for all creation, down to the least of living things.”[2]

St. Maximos helps us to see that we tend to live in pursuit of our own happiness and security in this life. Investing each day in the trifles and trinkets of a decaying world which is here today and gone tomorrow.  Our appetites lead us to consume all that we can but leave us with mouths full of dust. Is there another way to spend our time, to make the journey of this life, that leads us to the heavenly Kingdom?  Thankfully, the answer is YES!

In the Gospel according to St. Luke, Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:29-34)

There are two primary issues at play, that if we orient our lives correctly, we will be set free to live as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven rather than slaves to the kingdoms of this world.  The first pertains to our relationship to the passions and desires of the flesh, and the second pertains to our faith in God.

First, Jesus contrasts our obsession with satisfying our earthly desires for food, clothing, and shelter (representing all the desires of life) with the birds and the flowers who without a moment of obsession simply receive from their Creator all that they need for life – and do so in a beautiful and resplendent fashion.  One the other hand, we strain and toil for more and more of the “beautiful” things in life only to lose them all at our death.

This leads to the second issue in Jesus’ teaching, we live as if there is no God who provides all things needful for our salvation. Specifically, Jesus says, we have a lack of faith in God which causes us to strain and toil for what our hearts desire in this life – revealing that we believe it is up to us alone to acquire what is truly good and beautiful. 

But what is more lovely than the Kingdom of Heaven? What is fairer than a beauty that cannot fade? What is more enriching than a wealth that cannot be corrupted or lose its value? Nothing.  Nothing can compare to the eternal land that is our home in God. For this, we would invest all our earnings. We would sell all our possessions. We would forgo the fleeting moments of earthly pleasure and glory, if only we might inherit the Kingdom of Heaven!  The good news, Jesus says, is that “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  Good news indeed!

So, the question for each one of us is this, “What kingdom are you living for?” If we are living for the kingdoms of this world, then we will invest the resources of our lives accordingly. But if we are living for the Kingdom of Heaven, we will “commend ourselves, and each other, and our whole life unto Christ our God.”

In Christ,

Fr. David Hyatt

[1] Illustration by John Eldredge, All Things New: Heaven, Earth, and the Restoration of Everything You Love, Thomas Nelson, 2018.
[2] St. Maximos the Confessor, Four Hundred Texts on Love 3.16-19, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

Stewardship Letter #2

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”

1 Timothy 6:6

Dear St. Michael’s Family,

God bless you!

As we journey through the Nativity Fast in preparation for the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, it is a good time for us to consider our relationship to money and possessions.  Especially in this season when the world focuses its already heightened desire for material goods and comforts, we can benefit both spiritually and materially by more fully embracing the teaching of the Orthodox Church in regard to our possessions.  Our goal is freedom in Christ, rather than bondage to the fleeting pleasures of this world!

St. Paul lays out the positive vision for us in his first letter to St. Timothy.  He writes, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8) What a remarkable alternative to the never-ending consumer drive that has come to define our culture.  In a world where ‘more’ is never enough, the concept of contentment is completely foreign.  Can you imagine how our society and culture would be reshaped if we all began to live out St. Paul’s words, “having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”  Not, with new clothing and fine dining we shall be content, but contentment with our basic needs being met.

The alternative to contentment with the basics of life, according to St. Paul, is to be driven by harmful passions which lead to all kinds of sinful actions and reactions.  He writes, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10) Notice that he contrasts contentment with the basics of life with the desire to be ‘rich.’ We might think that there is a lot of room between these two options in which we can get as many creature comforts as we can without being ‘rich,’ you know, the 1% we hear so much about from our politicians who want to use our own greed and jealousy for their advantage.  But St. Paul makes it much simpler for us – two options – contentment with the basics of life, or a destructive pursuit of wealth and comforts.  It is less about how much we have and more a question of whether what we have ‘has’ us!

St. John Climacus, author of the Ladder of Divine Ascent, writes, “Avarice, or love of money, is the worship of idols, a daughter of unbelief, an excuse for infirmities, a foreboder of old age, a harbinger of drought, a herald of hunger. The lover of money sneers at the Gospel and is a willful transgressor. He who has attained to love scatters his money. But he who says that he lives for love and for money has deceived himself…. He who has conquered this passion has cut out care; but he who is bound by it never attains to pure prayer.”

But lest we who are not rich in the eyes of the world think that this letter is only addressing those who are rich in money and possessions, Blessed Augustine writes, “I’ve been wagging a finger at the rich. Poor people, you listen too. You should pay out too; you shouldn’t go plundering either. You should give of your means too. You too curb your greed. Listen, you poor, to the same apostle, “There is great gain,” he says, “in godliness with contentment.” You have the world in common with the rich. You don’t have a house in common with the rich, but you do have the sky, you do have the light in common with them. Just look for a sufficiency, look for what is enough, not for more than that. Anything more is a weighing down, not a lifting up of the spirit; a burden, not a reward.”

So let us determine to be content with the basics of life, and if we have been given more, let us share more.  For when we find ourselves with more income and greater gain of possessions than we truly need, it has been given to us by God to share with those who are in need of the basics.  Considering our support of the Church, our contribution to the maintenance of those who lack the basics of life, as well as the support of godly causes in society, none of us should be sitting on our riches, nor pampering our flesh at the expense of our neighbor.  In the book of Proverbs, we read, “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; and one who makes himself poor yet has great riches.”  May we be found to be rich in ‘godliness with contentment’ on the day of the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ “to whom be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”

In Christ,

Fr. David Hyatt

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