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.”
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 Sixteen
His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.” Matthew 25:21
Good morning Prayer Team!
Back when I was in school, I never had a teacher who told me “I want you to fail my class.” I’ve had some teachers who have said “It will be hard for you to succeed in my class.” I even had two who said to me “I’m going to make it hard for you to succeed in my class.” With the rare exception (and these people shouldn’t be teachers), a teacher wants his or her students to succeed. A teacher wants to give his or her students good grades. A teacher wants to congratulate his or her students for a job well done.
Back to the parable on which this stewardship unit is based, the master said to his two servants who made the most of their talents (the one who had been given the five and the one who had been given the two) “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25: 21, 23) He said that with great joy. He wanted to say that to his servants. When he had to punish the servant who wasted his talent, he didn’t do it with joy, but rather with sadness.
When our lives are over, and we go to God to answer to Him what we did with the talents He entrusted us, these are the words that He wants to say to us. He wants to welcome us as His good and faithful servants. He wants us to enter into His joy. He is not setting us up to fail. He does not say “I am going to make it hard for you to succeed.” And while it may be difficult to stay true to our calling as Christian stewards, that’s not because God makes it difficult. It is because the world is making is more difficult. God wants us to succeed. He wants to welcome us home with these words of joy.
As a parent, I want my child to succeed. I will give him every chance to succeed. My “plan” is for him to get a good education, go to college, have a job that will allow him to live independently from us, and hopefully one day get married and have a family of his own. This is my “plan,” and my hope for our son. He has free will, however. He is not required to adhere to my plan. He may very well choose not to go to school. He might choose to be a criminal or do something terrible with his life. That is not part of my plan. We are working hard to give him every chance for success. The choice to succeed, however, is his.
It is the same way with God. He has given each of us some talent, some way to serve Him and others in our lifetimes on this earth. There is no one who got no talent. There is no one that God wants to have fail in this life. There are, sadly, and by their choice, many people who do end up failing at life. There are many people who bury their talents. And there are many people who will have some explaining to do to God as to why they dug a hole in the ground and buried what He gave them. As the master did in the parable, God will send these away for eternal punishment, but He won’t do it with joy. Rather, He will do it with sadness. Why? Because He wants, and hopes, that everyone will succeed and use their talents as good stewards.
So, back to two earlier questions: Do you think of the day that you’ll stand before God and answer for what you did with the talents He gave you? And what words do you hope to hear Him say to you on that day?
What we hope to say to God and what we hope He says back to us when we die should affect how we live today. The good student doesn’t wait until the night before finals to cram everything in, but rather works in a steady and consistent way to learn and master the material, so that when the final exam comes, there is confidence rather than panic and nervousness. In the same way, the good Christian doesn’t try to cram faith and works into the last years of his life. Rather he or she works in a steady and consistent way to learn and master the material, and utilize his or her talents, so that when the final judgment comes, there is a confidence, rather than panic and nervousness.
God doesn’t want us to fail. He doesn’t want us to die scared. He wants us to succeed. He wants us to die “with confidence, and without fear of condemnation,” as we pray in the Divine Liturgy. However, in order to die like this, we must live today with purpose. Because today is what we have. Yesterday is over and tomorrow is not guaranteed. So it all boils down to glorifying and serving God, as well as serving others, with the talents with which He blessed each of us, and doing that today, and then again tomorrow, and every day, building for ourselves a life of joyful service, so that when we stand before God for our judgment, He will say the words that He wants to say, and the words we want to hear—“Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”
O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever. . .Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. . .The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. . .Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. Psalm 118: 1, 4, 14, 19-20
Be a good steward today, and tomorrow and every day. Live intentionally and with purpose, so that you can be prepared, so that God will one day welcome you as a good and faithful servant, to share in His joy forever!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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