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Stewardship Part 4: Giving Thanks Unto the Lord

In the first Chapters of Genesis, we were taught that all that exists was created by God, whether things visible or invisible, and nothing exists without originating from Him.  All of Creation has God as its Source and ultimately belongs to God.

Secondly, we learned from the offerings of Cain and Abel that one’s attitude is of the utmost importance.  Do we offer our very best—i.e., the first fruits of our labors and the choicest of all with which He has blessed us?  Is it an acknowledgement that all that we have comes from Him?  What we offer should be done as an expression of gratitude.  Our attitude in giving has a direct bearing on whether it is acceptable to God.  With this in mind, do we see our offering of our time, talent and treasure as a means of communion with God, or as an obligation or debt?

So far, as we have studied offerings and sacrifices in Genesis, we have seen nothing prescriptive as to what is expected—i.e., what is to be offered or how frequently or how an offering is to be made.  We were only told that the Lord accepted Abel’s offering of the firstlings of the flock, but had no regard for Cain’s offering at the end of days and the Lord was pleased with the burnt offerings of Noah after the flood.

When we get to Genesis 12:1-3, Abram is called by God to leave his people and land of his fathers and go to the place the Lord will show him.  It reads as follows:  “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.”

Then in verse 7, the Lord appears to Abram and promises to give him the land of Canaan, and Abram builds an Altar to the Lord.  Though the passage is silent about what Abram offered, in the Old Covenant books, a sacrifice or offering was always offered upon an Altar.  As the Lord had promised to bless Abram, he likely built the Altar to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.  Again in Genesis 13:14, the Lord promises to bless Abram with numerous descendants and to give to him and his descendants the land in which he had come to dwell.  Once again. Abram expresses his gratitude by building an Altar to make a sacrifice.  We are not told what he offered, nor was he instructed by the Lord to make an offering.  Abram just did it as an expression of gratitude and love and as a means of communion with the Lord.  What did Abram have that the Lord did not give him?  Nothing!  Yet, in his heart Abram desired to show his love for God through his offering.

In Genesis 14, we are told of a battle between various kings in the land, resulting in Abram’s nephew Lot being captured and all his goods carried off.  Abram, gathering his household, pursued these four kings.  Recovering not only Lot, his goods, women and people, but also the goods, women and people of Sodom, Abram went out to meet Melchizedek, King of Salem, who brought out wine and bread—a prefiguring of the Eucharist, which is derived from the word “thanksgiving.”  Melchizedek was also a priest of God Most High who blessed Abram saying:  “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

In response to God’s blessing of Abram defeating the kings who captured Lot and recovering Lot’s goods, women and people, Abram gave Melchisedek a tenth of everything (Genesis 14: 20b).  This would obviously have been a tenth of Abram’s own sheep, goats, oxen, cattle, camels, etc., as you cannot offer to God something that is not your own.  The King of Sodom had also received back his goods, women and people through Abram’s assistance, and he asked Abram only for the persons, but offered to let Abram keep the goods for himself.  Abram refused the offer because he had promised the Lord that he would not take as much as a thread or a sandal thong or anything belonging to the King of Sodom, lest the king should say, “I have made Abram rich.”  This is quite a remarkable passage, as Abram could have seen an opportunity to enrich himself by laying claim to all the spoils of war or by accepting the goods of another as payment for his assistance in defeating a common enemy.  Certainly, Abram and his nephew Lot would have suffered some loss in the battle, yet Abram knew God was the source of His many blessings and he partook of the bread and wine in thanksgiving for the Lord’s blessings.

In gratitude and thanksgiving for the safe return of his nephew and his nephew’s household, Abram offered a tenth of his own possessions to Melchizedek, King of Salem and a priest of the Most High God.  Abram is depicted as an un-mercenary in this passage as he assists his nephew and the four kings of Canaan in recovering their people and their goods, expecting nothing in return from them.

As we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, we prepare to receive the Eucharist.  As mentioned above, the word “Eucharist” is derived from the Greek word for “thanksgiving.”  In 1 Corinthians 11:23-24, Saint Paul writes: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’”

As the Lord delivered Lot and his household from certain slavery, the Lord has also delivered us from death and slavery to sin.  The freedom we acquired through Christ is a freedom we could not achieve, buy or pay for on our own, no matter how rich we may be.  It is a gift.  Is what we offer back to God a reflection of our thanksgiving for the gift of eternal life?  He already owns the world and all it contains.  What He does not own is our freedom to love and serve Him, with our time, treasure and talent.  That is where we are all called to offer back to God our very best!

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