by Mark Host
To answer this question, let us first look at what Christ tells the Pharisees. The Pharisees confront Jesus and ask him if it is lawful to pay taxes,
“And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:16-17).
If it is right to give tribute to Caesar because it is his image upon the coin, what then is it that belongs to God that we are supposed to render unto Him? The answer of course is us. We who profess to believe in Jesus Christ are His people. The word translated here as “render” in the original Koine Greek is ἀπόδοτε, which means “return back”. This reminds us that God is the source of everything. When we render unto God, we are not giving away something that is exclusively ours, we are giving back something that belongs to Him, and that He gave to us as a blessing.
Moreover, just as the coins are imprinted with the image of Caesar, it is we who are imprinted with the image of God: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). It is we who bear His image, and so we must render ourselves unto Him. When we think of this it becomes easier to be oriented toward stewardship. Most of us never think about the taxes we pay because it’s automatic: they are taken out of our paychecks, or added onto the cost of an item at the point of sale. It’s built into the system, and we rarely think about it. When we build into our systems the idea that we are made in the image of God, and therefore to be rendered unto Him, it becomes easier being stewardship oriented. Yet what we do not want is for our stewardship to be automatic, like taxes. The key idea to being stewardship minded is that it requires mindfulness. Stewardship is an act of thanksgiving for the grace and love that God gives us. If it becomes an automatic response we lose the heartfelt gratitude that is the reason we give back to God.
We often are reminded to see the image of Christ in others, because this helps us to be compassionate towards those with whom we often might not be able to find common ground, or even an agreeable disposition. Yet we should also remember to see the image of Christ in ourselves and in them. In this way we can remember that our actions should be reflective of God.
From this orientation, small, everyday interactions become a chance to interact with God. They are an opportunity to live our stewardship. Little things can become big things. Consider something like working a fish fry at your local parish during Lent. When you do, do you save money because you’re not eating home or out? It is often tempting to use that money to buy more material things that we probably don’t need. This is being oriented towards self. When you are oriented toward stewardship, you might instead see this as an opportunity to give more where it is most needed. Save the money you would have spent on dinner in a jar. At the end of Lent, give it to the church, or the seminary, or maybe even give it to your parish priest to give to a family in need. To give the money away even though you already gave of your time to help at the fish fry is what it means to truly be oriented towards God.
Think about the ways in which little things you do each day can be oriented towards God; think about the ways you can render yourself unto Him. Does the person behind you at the coffee shop look like a struggling student that could use a free coffee? Does someone in your Facebook feed sound like they’re calling for help? Is there something you can do that would save your parish even a couple dollars? Every day we encounter numerous opportunities to practice our stewardship, and in so doing reflect the image of God in us, so that His Glory shines forth into the world.
- Stewardship Question to Ponder – What is some simple thing that I routinely do in my life in which I can be more stewardship-minded? What kinds of fruits or benefits might be forthcoming if I did?
Mark Host is a member of St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, OH. He works in IT, teaches college English on the side, and is planning to return to school in 2017 to pursue his PhD.