We Are Caretakers, Not Owners

We Are Caretakers, Not Owners

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Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.

ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples

Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  Matthew 28:19-20

Stewardship: Giving to God What Belongs to God—Part Two

What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?  I Corinthians 4:7

 

Good morning Prayer Team!

When I was a newly ordained priest, a Hierarch of our church said this to me: “Your ministry is not yours, it is the Lord’s.  You will be a priest for a finite time on this earth.  Eventually you will turn your parish over to someone else.  So in the time that you are serving, don’t make changes to the Liturgy or to the Traditions of the church.  Those are not yours to change.  Take care of them, because you are a caretaker, not an owner of them.  And eventually turn them over to someone else, preserved as you found them.”

Many of us think in terms of “forever.”  Like, “I will always be married,” or “I will always be a parent,” or “I don’t plan to move ever, so I plan to own my house forever.”  However, while we may hope to be married for the rest of our lives, and rejoice in our children for the rest of our lives, and even live in our homes for the rest of our lives, we won’t be doing any of these things forever.  I’m currently 46 years old.  I won’t be serving my parish in 60 years.  I won’t be married in 60 years.  I won’t be raising my son in 60 years.  Because I’ll be dead before 60 years from now.  So, even if I live another 59 years, and even if I am married until the day I die, and live in the same home, it’s all temporary.  In 60 years, someone else will live in my home and someone else will serve my parish.

To “own” something means to possess something that no one else can have.  I “own” my car for instance.  I don’t leave it unlocked, with keys in the ignition, with a sign that says “if you need a car, this car is for public use.”  Yet, at the same time, I am really not the owner of the car.  I still just take care of it temporarily.  I have taken care of two cars previously that I no longer own.  I’ve bought two houses previously that I no longer own. 

If I see myself as an “owner”, I see myself as a possessor of something.  And many times there is more pride in owning something than care of it.  Pride leads us to be sloppy at times. 

If I see myself as a “care taker” rather than an owner, then I will do a better job of “taking care” of what I have, rather than possessing it. Let’s look at I Corinthians 4:7.  If everything we have is a gift, and if we are temporary caretakers of everything, and owners/masters of nothing, it actually should impact the way that we look at all of the things around us. 

Let’s look at our environment for a moment.  We are all temporary caretakers of our environment.  If we use up all the natural resources of our planet, and if we pollute the air and the water, what is there going to be for the people who come after us?  After all, we do not own the environment.  Others will eventually inhabit our planet.  On a personal level, I will not own my house in 60 years.  My son may own it, but at some point even he won’t own it.  Therefore, this piece of earth that I “own” or rather take care of temporarily is another thing I must treasure and take care of.  If I fill my property with toxic waste, or make it last only until I do not need it, I haven’t been a good steward of my property. 

We are caretakers of our children—we don’t own them.  They will one day leave us and move out on their own.  If we have not taken care of them, if we have not been good stewards as parents, our children will not be ready to go out into the world and live productively. 

Again, when I think of an owner, I sometimes think that owners are more careless than “stewards.”  Take our clothes for example.  I am not “careful” with my clothes.  Today I own the clothes and tomorrow when they don’t fit or they get old or they get damaged, I throw them away and get new ones.  Many of the things I own are disposable, so I don’t take care of them.  However, all the important things I have are not disposable—my family, my career, my home, my body, my health, my faith.  And I have to be cognizant of being a good caretaker of all of these things. 

Finally, things we own we feel entitled to.  Gifts we receive, we tend to cherish.  If I pay money for a baseball glove, I feel entitled to use it and abuse it and eventually get rid of it.  If someone were to gift me a baseball glove signed by a famous player like Babe Ruth, I’d feel grateful and I’d feel compelled to preserve it and pass it down to my son.  That’s because we receive gifts with gratitude, rather than entitlement. 

So, let’s look at our things in terms of taking care of them rather than owning them, and in so doing, we’ll be more grateful and less complacent, more careful and less careless. 

I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.  Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods!  Thou hast multiplied, O Lord my god, Thy wondrous deeds and Thy thoughts toward us; none can compare with Thee!  Were I to proclaim and tell of them they would be more than can be numbered.  Sacrifice and offering Thou dost not desire; but Thou hast given me an open ear.  Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required.  Then I said, “Lo, I come; in the roll of the book it is written of me; I delight to do Thy will, O my god; Thy law is within my heart.”  I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; lo, I have no restrained my lips, as Thou knowest, O Lord.  I have not hid Thy saving help within my heart, I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation; I have not concealed Thy steadfast love and Thy faithfulness from the great congregation.  Do not Thou, O Lord, withhold Thy mercy from me, let Thy steadfast love and Thy faithfulness ever preserve me!  For evils have encompassed me without number; my iniquities have overtaken me; till I cannot see.  They are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.  Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!  O Lord, make haste to help me! Let them be put to shame and confusion altogether who seek to snatch away my life; let them be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire my hurt!  Let them be appalled because of their shame who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”  But may all who seek Thee rejoice and be glad in thee; may those who love Thy salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!”  As for me, I am poor and needy; but the Lord takes thought for me.  Thou art my help and my deliverer; do not tarry, O my God!  Psalm 40

A steward is a temporary caretaker.  Be intentional about taking care of the things that have been gifted to you—your family, our environment, your specific talents, and our faith!

 

+Fr. Stavros

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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”