By Mark Host
It might silly to even ask such a question. Stewardship has no ethnicity. It is a Biblical principle, and the Bible transcends nationality. We all love our culture, and give it a place of importance in our lives, but it is important to remember that we did not start Orthodoxy, we were brought to it.
In the year 863, the Orthodox evangelists, Saints Cyril and Methodius developed the Glagolitic alphabet, which they used to translate the Bible into Old Church Slavonic. The Cyrillic alphabet used by the Ukrainian language today is a descendant of that work. They did this to bring the gospel to the Slavic peoples. We often refer to the Gospel in terms such as, “the Ukrainian Gospel” or, “the English Gospel”. In these cases these terms are adjectives, describing the language in which the Gospel is presented, but all too often we treat them as possessive terms. Such a view stems from a logical error. The Gospel is not Ukrainian. Ukrainian and its related languages were codified into a written system in order to bring the Gospel to us. The language upon which so much of our cultural identity rests has its root an effort of evangelization and stewardship.
If this were not in itself enough, we have the example of our very revered St. Vladimir (Volodymyr). He set up a tithe of his income and property to establish a church that is commonly referred to as The Church of the All-Holy Tithe. We revere the actions of his baptism of Ukraine, but often ignore the stewardship example he set for us all. The founders of many of our UOC parishes also gave deeply to set up and support their beloved parishes. In a time when they primarily worked in blue collar, industrial jobs, they sacrificed much to establish the churches we attend today. Truly they learned from the example set by St. Vladimir.
What is perhaps Ukrainian (though not exclusively) is the reason why we don’t have good stewardship practices. In the old country the Church long benefitted from state support. For this reason, our ancestors did not need to give, and so the practice of stewardship was not adequately taught as a blessed way of offering our lives to God. In the process, so too did we lose the connection with sacrificial offering in the Divine Liturgy. In a related way, this too is a reason too that stewardship seems to us to be a “Protestant” idea. Many of the Protestant churches that exist today (though of course not all) began here in the United States, where separation of church and state meant that they didn’t receive the benefit of state support, and needed to be supported by their parishioners from the start. Even some of the Protestant churches that started in Europe were persecuted churches, and did not receive this support. So stewardship practices were an organic part of many of these churches from the start.
It is clear that stewardship is Biblical. We have the examples of the saints. We have the precedent set by the founders of our parishes. So it is silly to think that stewardship is not Ukrainian. Stewardship is necessity of all Christians who seek give thanks to God.
A couple of questions to ponder – feel free to post your comments on this site and strike up a conversation:
- Do you think of stewardship as a practice that is “not Ukrainian”?
- How can this change my attitude about stewardship and how it applies to all Christians?
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.