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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Jesus said: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (Gospel of Cheesefare Sunday)
Good morning Prayer Team!
Most of us think we “cannot live” without our cell phones. We place great value on our little devices that allow us to talk, text, give us directions, allow us to check email, surf the Internet, play games and lots of other things. I even did a lesson once with a group of teenagers on “what would you run into a burning house in order to retrieve,” and surprisingly, a number of them said they would run in to grab the phone. Actually, there is NOTHING of material value that I would run into a house to retrieve. The most important things in our lives are of non-material value—the people (our families and friends) and our faith.
And yet so much of us spend the majority of our lives chasing material riches. Most of us are not happy with only necessities—we want luxury items as well. Well, the cell phone we so treasure today will be obsolete in six months. Certainly, no one has a phone more than ten years old. Clothes wear out, or we grow out of them. Computers are replaced. So are cars, and carpets, couches and chairs. We may live in the same house for our entire life—a rarity, but it still happens—but eventually, when we die, we won’t live there either. I’ve been to many funerals in my work as a priest, and ultimately it comes down to a body in a box. Nobody dies materially rich, because once death comes, all the earthly possessions and our ownership of them ends.
The only thing that survives after death is our soul. And thus we need to be thinking of the state of our souls at all times. As we work toward accumulating earthly treasures, we need to be putting treasure in heaven.
Most of us are familiar with Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). This is where we put away money on a yearly basis, so that there is “something there” for us when we retire. Those who put a lot of money into an IRA retire well, and those who put nothing into their IRA find themselves unable to retire, or in trouble when they are older.
Consider for a moment, an Eternal Retirement Account (or an ERA). This is something you put into on a daily basis, storing up treasure in heaven, in the form of gestures that show love for God and for your neighbor. Putting treasure into an “ERA” will have an eternal payout. Failure to put treasure into the ERA will result in an eternal problem.
Jesus tells us that where our treasures are, that is where our hearts are. So, if we spend all of our money on ourselves, and we never help the poor, or help the church, that says that those things are not important on the record of our lives. The same is true for our time. If we spend an hour a day watching television but we don’t have a few minutes to pray; or if we spend 3 hours a week (and usually more) watching sports but don’t have an hour a week to worship, what does this say about how we value our faith?
Truth be told, I’ve never had anyone I met at the end of their life that wished that they had had one more day to be in their office, or one more day to watch sports. Most people regret not spending more time with family and not doing more to help others, not spending more time in church, or giving more to charity.
There is nothing in the Bible that says we can’t own a home or take a nice trip with our families. In fact, in many places we read that God wants us to have sufficiency for ourselves. He does not, however, wish us to have largess, at the expense of helping others. If every good thing, starting off with this very day on which we are alive, is a gift from Him, we should make it a priority to give a portion of everything we receive from Him back to Him. He gives us time, so we should give something back to Him in prayer and worship, and service to others. He gives us the means to earn material riches. And a portion of these should be given back as well.
Our treasure (and our time) and our hearts work hand in hand. When you put more emphasis on something, it becomes more important to you. When something is important to you, you put more emphasis on it. So whether you lead with your heart and your treasure follows, or you lead with your treasure and your heart follows, make sure that your heart and your treasure are both directed, in some measure, towards the Lord. Because in order to be ready for “eternal retirement,” you need to have put away a good portion of your heart and your treasure into an ERA.
O guide to wisdom, provider of prudence, disciplinarian of fools, and defender of the poor, fortify and discipline my heart, O Master; You, give me a word, O Word of the Father. For behold, I will not hinder my lips from crying to You: O Merciful Lord, have mercy on me who have fallen. (Kontakion, Cheesefare Sunday, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Put something into your ERA today!
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