by John Truslow, Archdiocesan Stewardship Team
from The Word, January 2008
Historian of Church Doctrine Jaroslav Pelikan once remarked, “Before Constantine [in the 3rd century A.D.], stewardship might have meant giving your life; after Constantine, stewardship consisted of paying your taxes” (“Orthodox America,” p. 193, in Good and Faithful Servant: Stewardship in the Orthodox Church, edited by A. Scott). This meant that Orthodox Christians were weaned away from biblical disciplines of giving over a millennia and a half of various (Christian and later Muslim) governments authorizing the collection of tax money, a portion of which supported the Church. Why “give” when the money will be taken from you to support the Church anyway, whether you want that or not? Quite so!
You will look in vain today in the (mostly 4th century) Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom for a rubric that specifically directs the collection of tithes or offerings at a particular point in our worship, even though sacrificial offerings have been very much a part of worship as long as there have been records of worship, biblical or extra-biblical. Why? Why bother to have offerings when we have already given at the tax office? Quite so!