January 2007


I hope I am not losing grasp of my sense of humility if I praise and thank my God for inspiring me to write, even as a petty amateur, of the mystic energy that is faith and the relationship between faith and the soul while in the body, making its way through this earthly life. For it is a fitting crown to be able to write about such lofty matters after a day of hard work. What better way, then, other than through prayer and song, to praise the Lord, the very author of life, through His creative energies, working through the soul, engaged by one whose best God-given talent, as humble as it may be, so to write. So perhaps I can also be forgiven for imitating the flowing, mystic epistolary style of Saint Paul, for it is good and proper to honor the apostles and the fathers of the Church through imitation of their good works. And yet perhaps we of today, as we step into the Third Millennium of the light of Christ in the world, a world still, in the words of Saint John, that does not understand the light, can contribute something useful, can bring new insight, new light into an epoch that has lasted some two-hundred years now, into a world that has slipped in an ions-old heresy, though against the backdrop of an apparently unique set of circumstances, into a world of men of different cultures whose faith is in their greed and in their weapons of mass destruction, whether of modern high technology or ions-old maladies of the soul. That is the earthly world that we are living in, that is the earthly world that we so boldly bring new life into, but we have faith in Jesus Christ, we have faith in the loving energy of the soul, the loving energy that is the instrument of mass creation, yet one field, one soul, one zap at a time.

“ … stable with a flair, five thousand years … “

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Burning the brain during the process of hard, wholesome work is an act of self-purification as written about even in the Psalms. It is through hard work and faith that we are purified, burned white hot through the trials of life, even as a psychological journey, for just as a hunter fails and his family starves, just as the farmer’s crop fails and his family starves, so even the monk can lose his faith and his spirit starves.

Therefore, just as we remain sober when hunting, tilling the earth, working that field one zap at a time, or when preparing food for hospital patients, so we must remain sober in our prayer, working, concentrating, involving to the greatest extent possible body, mind, and heart, burning ourselves to the utmost to achieve white-hot purity, serving others if we can, just as a candle burns itself out to give life to others.

Be mature enough to give your best time to God, to give the first fruits of your living to God, and do this in the way that feels right to you, in the truthful way, in song, in harmony with the will of God.

Give the best of your culture, the field that you work, everyday, one zap at a time, because the best of your culture, your cultivation, also represents the best of your time, your first fruits. Therefore, be not ashamed to be who you are, also in cultural terms, because that is the life that God made through you, but also be a peace-maker, in all social conditions as Christ commanded you to be blessed, not letting the life of your own culture to overcrowd that of other living creatures, but living in peace and harmony with them.

It is right, then, to give the best of ourselves to God, and this can be done in a myriad of ways, but mainly through hard work at making a living, love of family, and most of all, I would say, through the sincerity of one’s prayer, letting nothing interfere with the pure flow of one’s heart, for there-through extends a path to more than just mere eternity, but the most direct channel to the glory of God which you reflect not just in the mere here and now, but beyond any notion harbored in that feeble though at times noble instrument that is the human mind, but in the all-powerful truth that transcends through the heart.

Cultivate this feeling, then, through your hard work as you cultivate the field of life, one zap at a time, concentrating your effort on reaping the fruits of the Spirit, tolerating the weeds, for they have their purpose too, perhaps beyond your understanding, but in any case not your main business, and with this in mind, blowing aside with overwhelming force, stronger than any hurricane, the very concept of hostility, the concept of an enemy, making love of one’s “enemy” a normal part of the business of nature as you play your part in it.

Any time is the right time to exercise a little discipline. You will never achieve purity or perfection, but it is the very attempt that can help set you on the path to becoming pure: always try to make the most of whatever the circumstances to exercise at least one of the several virtues (fruits of the Spirit), and the chief of these are those that are in harmony with God’s will based on the overarching virtues of love and creativity. That means, for example, if you are in a family situation, then love the family, help it grow, cook the best and the most sincere meal that you can with the ingredients available to you. We can fill these pages with myriad examples, but the aim is the same: we must focus the meaning of all our efforts, all our actions, all that appears natural for us to do, on the glory of God.

Therefore, you have things to do? Well, good. Do them in the spirit of the Lord, splash your soul and mind in His glory in everything that you do, in accordance with His will as it is most natural for you to do. This is the way to overcome your frailties, your doubts over whether what it is you are doing is the right thing: learn the virtues as the philosophers and saints have taught us since the days of old and do your best to put them into practice. The value of the attempt is measured first of all by the sincerity of the effort. Then, in time, if you are sincere and if you persist, you will find that the Lord will assign you no task that is beyond the talents that he has endowed you with, if you keep the faith, the source of energy that is the never-fading burning light of life, an energy beyond the grasp of bodily understanding, for just as the soul is more than just a burning candle, so the womb is more than just a fleshy cavern temporarily feeding a new body emerging onto the face of the earth, but the generation-to-generation symbol of an energy that expresses the very life that God willed in His creation, just as the modest green shoots that seize the opportunity for life, growing in the barest top soil that accumulates in the concave space of ceramic roof tiles, are no less a reflection of the glory of God and His love-inspired creation which is life itself dispersed into the unending numbers of living souls in the Universe, cohered into the one family of faith, the energy of life.

An Essay On The Use Of Two Words In The Framework Of Patristic Lexicon

Stephanos of Epiros

© 2006

Contents

I. Introduction

II. The Patristic Lexicon Framework

1) Ministration
2) Disposition, Organization, Constitution
3) Dispensation, Ordering
4) Adaptation Of Means To Ends, Prudent Handling Of Any Matter

III. Towards A More “Economical” Framework

1) Trinity And The Creation
2) Relationship Between God And Man
3) Man As The Faithful Economist (accordance of wills)
4) Man As The Materialist Economist (a simple job)

IV. Economy And Economists In The New Testament

1) Luke 16:1-8 The Dishonest Economist

2) Luke 12:35-48 The Faithful Economist Of Resources And Responsibilities

3) Romans 16:23 Greetings To An Economist

4) 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 Faithful Economists Of The Mysteries Of God

5) 1 Corinthians 9:16-19 Economist By Free Will Or As A Mere Job?

6) Galatians 4:2 The Immature Are Ruled By Materialist Economists

7) Ephesians 1:10 Fulfillment Of The Divine Economy

8 ) Ephesians 3:2-10 Economy Of The Grace And The Mystery

9) Colossians 1:25 A Job For The Faithful Economist

10) 1 Timothy 1:4 The Faithful Economist Stays Focused On The Divine Plan

11) Titus 1:7 The Faithful Economist Keeps Good Order

12) 1 Peter 4:10 Good Economists Of God’s Multifaceted Grace

V. Conclusion

Economy And Economists In The New Testament

    I. Introduction

Just as it is written in the Psalms “may my meditation be pleasing to the Lord”, so it is also my hope that my writing this short essay will be pleasing in the sight of God. For my purpose is not to write a scholarly or philosophical treatise – for where is the scholar? – but to help myself discipline my otherwise sadly vagrant mind and focus instead what is truly important: attempting to understand, and put into practice, more clearly the Good News, and cultivating the fruits of the Holy Spirit, using the talents that God graciously endowed me with and the skills that I have gained through my experience in this world, while at the same time possibly also offering to others useful insights into the very same Good News, still in today’s world, which is Jesus Christ within us.

A few years ago I wrote down a definition of the meaning of economics. To me economics means contemplating – and putting into practice – to what extent does the effort to organize the material world on this planet, or in this universe, add value to human life, the human experience, and so to spiritual life, and at what point does such an effort begin to take away from that value.
The determination of that value is both a social and individual issue, but the ultimate responsibility for that determination lies within one’s own personal decision, with one’s own basic moral choice, according to one’s own free will.
To be an economist, then, does not mean being a materialist. To be an economist means understanding the real value of material things and, conversely, of spiritual things.

More recently, then, I have turned my attention to the use of the words οικονομία and οικονόμος in the New Testament based on the definitions found in A Patristic Lexicon , particularly for οικονομία.

    II. The Patristic Lexicon Framework

According to Patristic Lexicon, οικονομία has four general meanings:
1) ministration;
2) disposition, organization, constitution;
3) dispensation, ordering;
4) adaptation of means to ends, prudent handling of any matter.

1) Ministration

Patristic Lexicon lists eleven sub-meanings under the general meaning, ranging from management to function, to tenure of office (of an οικονόμος, for example, i.e. property manager, administrator, or governor).
Worthy of note is the sub-meaning “function”, itself divided into three further sub-meanings i) in general, ii) Trinitarian, and iii) one’s life work or career.

2) Disposition, Organization, Constitution
Patristic Lexicon lists three sub-meanings i) physical disposition, organization, or constitution, ii) mental disposition, and, perhaps most germane to our exercise here, iii) Trinitarian in the sense of Trinitarian functional organization, the distribution of the Trinitarian function, and the relation of the Father and the Son in the Incarnation.

Interesting to note is the relationship between the use of the word οικονομία in reference to a Trinitarian function under the general meaning of ministration and in reference to Trinitarian function under the general meaning of disposition/organization. In other words, in some way, the Trinity ministers, organizes, and disposes; i.e. it engages in οικονομία.

3) Dispensation, Ordering
Under the general meaning dispensation/ordering for οικονομία, Patristic Lexicon lists six sub-meanings, virtually all of which are important for our purposes here:
i) natural order or natural laws in general;
ii) divine dispensation in creation and providential ordering of the world;
iii) God’s special dispensation or interpositions, especially grace and mercy;
iv) divine grace or operation in the sacraments, baptism;
v) Old Testament dispensation as a whole;
vi) the Incarnation.

Under Incarnation, Patristic Lexicon lists six further sub-meanings, the most important of which here are dispensation of divine purpose, Christ’s incarnate life and work in general (further divided into four parts, mainly meaning Christ’s work as redeemer), and human nature alone.

4) Adaptation Of Means To Ends, Prudent Handling Of Any Matter

Patristic Lexicon lists six sub-meanings under this general meaning, ranging from providence or discretion in general to diplomacy, management, and strategy.

III. Towards A More “Economical” Framework

I find the Patristic Lexicon’s organization and ordering of the definition of οικονομία uneconomical, as it were.

Synthesizing and re-organizing the foregoing framework, it seems to me that there are four basic meanings of οικονομία and οικονόμος as used by the writers of the New Testament and the Church Fathers.

1) Trinity And The Creation

God is a Trinitarian God, His energies – the Son and the Holy Spirit – are at work in the creation, and the three persons of the Trinity have a functional organization in it.
If οικονομία means “law of the house”, then creation and the universe – in a word, nature – are the Lord’s house and His house has a natural order and natural laws, and one of these natural laws is the free will of man.
So the divine and natural order are the οικονομία.

2) Relationship Between God And Man

Part of God’s divine plan, His οικονομία, is the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, and His message to man, the fulfillment of creation, grace, and the sacraments, at the proper time.

3) Man As The Faithful Economist (accordance of wills)

Man’s work as the faithful economist is to minister the portion of the creation allotted to him, in accordance with divine will, the natural order, natural law, and to cultivate the fruits of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and discipline –, in proportion to his faith through which he is saved. Another word that fits well under this meaning is responsibility.

4) Man As The Materialist Economist (a simple job)

Man’s work as the materialist economist is to perform a “job” for the sole purpose of material gain, doing something for a material living and with no purpose of cultivating the fruits of the Holy Spirit. An extreme and perverted case of the materialist economist is one who is αισχροκερδής, greedy for material gain and, worse yet, to the point where that is all he has faith in, including its most base symbol, money.

However, it is equally important to emphasize that being the faithful economist and the materialist economist are not necessarily incompatible. Why we engage in material economy matters to our salvation; it depends on attitude and intention, it depends on the sincerity of one’s heart.

IV. Economy And Economists In The New Testament

The writers of the New Testament use the words οικονομία and οικονόμος on twelve occasions: Saint Luke on two occasions, Saint Paul on nine occasions, and Saint Peter on one.

1) Luke 16:1-8 The Dishonest Economist

Jesus tells his disciples the parable of a man given responsibility to manage resources, but he treats this responsibility as a mere job, as a means to material gain.

1 Ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν πλούσιος, ὃς εἶχεν οἰκονόμον, καὶ οὗτος διεβλήθη αὐτῷ ὡς διασκορπίζων τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ.

There was a certain rich man who had a manager, and an accusation was made against the manager that he was wasting the rich man’s resources.

2 ἀπόδος τὸν λόγον τῆς οἰκονομίας σου· οὐ γὰρ δύνῃ ἔτι οἰκονομεῖν.

Give an account of your management for you can no longer be manager.

3 εἶπε δὲ ἐν ἑαυτῷ ὁ οἰκονόμος· τί ποιήσω, ὅτι ὁ κύριός μου ἀφαιρεῖται τὴν οἰκονομίαν ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ; 4 ἔγνων τί ποιήσω, ἵνα, ὅταν μετασταθῶ ἐκ τῆς οἰκονομίας, δέξωνταί με εἰς τοὺς οἴκους ἑαυτῶν.

So the manager said to himself “what will I do? For the owner will take my job from me … when I am put out of the job, they (those who owe debts to the owner) may put me up in their homes.

8 τὸν οἰκονόμον τῆς ἀδικίας

the unjust manager

The manager is accused of wasting these resources and he devises a plan to corrupt those who owe debts to the owner (also corrupt), so that he may be able to live comfortably in their houses.

Jesus explains that entrusting resources (υπάρχοντα) – and, ultimately, putting being itself at one’s disposal (υπάρχω) – is a test of faith. We may freely choose to execute our jobs for material gain only and dishonestly at that, or we may pursue them with a higher purpose at heart, true wealth, (το αληθινόν μαμωνά), everlasting homes (τας αιωνίους σκηνάς – literally “tents”).

So in this example, Jesus illustrates the attitude and behavior of the materialist economist and one who is αισχροκερδής (greedy for material gain) in a corrupt world, while at the same time pointing to the attitude and rewards of the faithful economist.

2) Luke 12:35-48 The Faithful Economist Of Resources And Responsibilities

Jesus tells the parable of the watchful servants (also Mt 24:45-51), illustrating that God has endowed us with and put us in charge of resources, both spiritual and material, that we may know and do His will, even when we think that God is not watching or, more accurately, when we do not see God, and therefore we do the right thing by faith.

42 Τίς ἄρα ἐστὶν ὁ πιστὸς οἰκονόμος καὶ φρόνιμος, ὃν καταστήσει ὁ κύριος ἐπὶ τῆς θεραπείας αὐτοῦ τοῦ διδόναι ἐν καιρῷ τὸ σιτομέτριον;

Who, then, is the wise and faithful manager whom the owner has put in charge of his employees to give them their wage (literally “measure of wheat”) at the proper time?

The Lord dispenses (allocates) resources and responsibilities to each one according to his talents and the faithful economist distributes back to others accordingly, in proportion to his faith as he makes a sincere effort to discern the will of God. The reward for this sincere effort is to be put in possession of unfathomable wealth; to remain eternally in the presence of the everlasting glory of God.

3) Romans 16:23 Greetings To An Economist

Saint Paul closes several of his letters with greetings, and his letter to the Romans, possibly from Corinth, is a prime example of this.

ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς Ἔραστος ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως
Erastos, city manager, greets you.

Apparently Erastos was the city manager or treasurer. We can suppose that Erastos performed his job faithfully.

4) 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 Faithful Economists Of The Mysteries Of God

Writing his first letter to the Corinthians, apparently from Ephesos, Saint Paul in the first chapter expresses deep concern that divisions among them may be leading them astray from what is important.
In the ensuing three chapters, he re-affirms what he had taught them about Christ. He opens the fourth chapter stating

Οὕτως ἡμᾶς λογιζέσθω ἄνθρωπος, ὡς ὑπηρέτας Χριστοῦ καὶ οἰκονόμους μυστηρίων Θεοῦ. ὃ δὲ λοιπὸν ζητεῖται ἐν τοῖς οἰκονόμοις, ἵνα πιστός τις εὑρεθῇ.

May people consider us as servants of Christ and ministers of the mysteries of God. Hereby, then, it is necessary for ministers to be known as some one who is faithful.

The οικονομία or ministry of the apostles is to teach the mysteries of God, which is Christ within us, the Good News, and we know that the οικονόμος, the economist or minister, must be faithful in doing God’s will.

5) 1 Corinthians 9:16-19 Economist By Free Will Or As A Mere Job?

“Am I not free?” Am I not an apostle?”, Saint Paul writes at the opening of chapter nine, again addressing the proper role of an apostle.

εἰ γὰρ ἑκὼν τοῦτο πράσσω, μισθὸν ἔχω· εἰ δὲ ἄκων, οἰκονομίαν πεπίστευμαι.

For if I do this (preach the Good News) willingly, then I have a reward; if unwillingly then a job entrusted to me.

We must pursue economy as a heartfelt endeavor, sincerely and faithfully of our own free will, not as a mere job or, worse, a heartless pursuit of material gain, abusing others while doing it. On the contrary, we must in some way sacrifice the gifts and talents that God graciously endowed us with in the service of others, in accordance with our faith: the good economist.

6) Galatians 4:2 The Immature Are Ruled By Materialist Economists

Saint Paul writes to the Galatians concerning the controversy over whether non-Jewish Christians should be circumcised. The real issue is whether we are saved by the law or by faith.
Paul argues by asking whether we do what we do because the law says we have to or because we know it is the right thing. The law exists to curb the evil in men, but the law can never make men pure. The law plays the role of the simple administrator and does not represent the true free will of the faithful economist.

In the actual quote from Galatians 4:2, Saint Paul uses οικονόμους in the sense of simple administrator and when referring to the faithful carrying out of God’s will, he uses the term κληρονόμος, heir.

Λέγω δέ, ἐφ’ ὅσον χρόνον ὁ κληρονόμος νήπιός ἐστιν, οὐδὲν διαφέρει δούλου, κύριος πάντων ὤν, ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ ἐπιτρόπους ἐστὶ καὶ οἰκονόμους ἄχρι τῆς προθεσμίας τοῦ πατρός.

I say, then, for as long as the heir is a child he is no different than a slave; though he owns everything, he is under supervisors and administrators until the time set by his father.

As mentioned, the supervisors and the administrators represent the law and a child or slave represents a person who does not yet do the right thing faithfully by his own free will. But when God reveals the Good News at the proper time, the person who accepts the Good News by his own free will becomes a true son and heir, inheriting true riches, his share of the kingdom of God.
To put it another way, immature people not yet worthy of free will are under the administrators (material economists) of the law, but the mature person (the faithful economist) acts out of his own free will which is in harmony with the will of God.

7) Ephesians 1:10 Fulfillment Of The Divine Economy

In the opening chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul pours out an explanation of the spiritual blessings of Christ.

γνωρίσας ἡμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν αὐτοῦ, ἣν προέθετο ἐν αὐτῷ 10 εἰς οἰκονομίαν τοῦ πληρώματος τῶν καιρῶν, ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ, τὰ ἐπὶ τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, ἐν αὐτῷ.

(God) making known to us the mystery of His will, according to his desire which He purposed in Him (Christ) in the dispensation of the fulfillment at the proper time, bringing about everything together in Christ, both in heaven and on earth in Him.

In the context of the divine plan, οικονομία here refers to “divine dispensation of creation and providential ordering of the world, God’s special dispensation, especially grace” .

God creates and the richness of his grace overflows into us. He endowed us with free will, even to the point where we can choose not to recognize Him.
But God loves us and cares about us deeply. According to His plan, at the proper time He sent Christ to reconcile us to Him and so to make His plan known to us (dispensation of the οικονομία).
After that, He left us again to our own free will, so to speak, but with the knowledge of His mystery, his οικονομία and the Good News, which is the salvation of our souls through faith, for those who freely will to seek it.

8 ) Ephesians 3:2-10 Economy Of The Grace And The Mystery

In chapter 2, Saint Paul describes in greater detail the divine plan, specifically the relationship between grace, faith and works, and all of humanity’s chance to participate in it through Christ. Grace is uncreated and infinite, our faith is limited, in part by our own free will, but it can grow, while good works (those of the faithful economist) flow out of authentic faith. Grace is a gift; those who receive the gift by faith, which saves us, do good works.
In this context, he writes in the opening to chapter 3

1 Τούτου χάριν ἐγὼ Παῦλος ὁ δέσμιος τοῦ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν τῶν ἐθνῶν, 2 εἴγε ἠκούσατε τὴν οἰκονομίαν τῆς χάριτος τοῦ Θεοῦ τῆς δοθείσης μοι εἰς ὑμᾶς, 3 ὅτι κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν ἐγνώρισέ μοι τὸ μυστήριον, καθὼς προέγραψα ἐν ὀλίγῳ, 4 πρὸς ὃ δύνασθε ἀναγινώσκοντες νοῆσαι τὴν σύνεσίν μου ἐν τῷ μυστηρίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 5 ὃ ἑτέραις γενεαῖς οὐκ ἐγνωρίσθη τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων ὡς νῦν ἀπεκαλύφθη τοῖς ἁγίοις ἀποστόλοις αὐτοῦ καὶ προφήταις ἐν Πνεύματι, 6 εἶναι τὰ ἔθνη συγκληρονόμα καὶ σύσσωμα καὶ συμμέτοχα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, 7 οὗ ἐγενόμην διάκονος κατὰ τὴν δωρεὰν τῆς χάριτος τοῦ Θεοῦ τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ.

For this reason I, Paul, prisoner of Christ for you, the nations – if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery … by which you may understand my insight into the mystery of Christ which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets: that the nations should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and participants in His promise in Christ through the Good News of which I have become a servant according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of his power.

Saint Paul also appears to use the word οικονομία in the very next verses 8-10
8 ἐμοὶ τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ πάντων τῶν ἁγίων ἐδόθη ἡ χάρις αὕτη, ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν εὐαγγελίσασθαι τὸν ἀνεξιχνίαστον πλοῦτον τοῦ Χριστοῦ 9 καὶ φωτίσαι πάντας τίς ἡ οἰκονομία τοῦ μυστηρίου τοῦ ἀποκεκρυμμένου ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων ἐν τῷ Θεῷ, τῷ τὰ πάντα κτίσαντι διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 10 ἵνα γνωρισθῇ νῦν ταῖς ἀρχαῖς καὶ ταῖς ἐξουσίαις ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις διὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἡ πολυποίκιλος σοφία τοῦ Θεοῦ

To me, the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach the Good News to all nations of the untraceable riches of Christ and to make all see the dispensation of the mystery, hidden since the beginning of the ages in God, who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church (body of Christ) to the principalities and powers (angels) in the heavenly places

Similar to dispensation of fulfillment at the proper time in Ephesians 1:10, οικονομία here means dispensation of the mystery, i.e. the Good News of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and preached to all nations through Saint Paul.

It should be noted, however, that the so-called Textus Receptus of the Greek-speaking churches first published in 1516 and in wide-spread use until the mid-1800s contains the word κοινωνία του μυστηρίου – usually translated as fellowship of the mystery, though the so-called Critical Texts, the United Bible Societies text, and the so-called Majority Texts, all report οικονομία.

Regardless, in reading these passages the faithful economist gains the impression that the mystery is much deeper than simply repeating “the kingdom of God is within you”: we have to reflect more deeply on what this means, yet the depth of the riches of Christ is just as unfathomable to the human mind as the riches themselves are untraceable, and so the οικονομία is deeper than we can hope to grasp and understand. Nonetheless, if we keep the faith while “in the body”, we have the hope of knowing even more deeply the glory of God, the experience of being saved.

9) Colossians 1:25 A Job For The Faithful Economist

Saint Paul, apparently from Rome, writes to the Colossians in Asia Minor to stave off a heresy that had been developing among some of them, teaching, among other things, that Christ was not uniquely divine and that salvation comes through knowledge.
But Paul reminds them of the Good News that he had preached to them – that salvation comes through faith in Christ, and that the Church is His body of which He is the head.

Νῦν χαίρω ἐν τοῖς παθήμασί μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν καὶ ἀνταναπληρῶ τὰ ὑστερήματα τῶν θλίψεων τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου ὑπὲρ τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ, ὅ ἐστιν ἡ ἐκκλησία, 25 ἧς ἐγενόμην ἐγὼ διάκονος κατὰ τὴν οἰκονομίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι εἰς ὑμᾶς, πληρῶσαι τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you and in my flesh I make up for what is lacking in the affliction of Christ for the sake of His body, the church, whose servant I have become under the tenure of office from God given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God.

Even the word responsibility seems to work better here in English: under the responsibility from God given to me for you

God gave Saint Paul the job of ministering to the early Church (and not only, because his letters are timeless), but not just a simple job for material gain (see 1 Cor 9:16-19, pp. 9-10), but a job that only a faithful economist such as Saint Paul could do, steadfast in the faith, in fulfillment of the mystery of God, God’s will for creation and for humankind, and Saint Paul does the job willingly as a labor of love.

10) 1 Timothy 1:4 The Faithful Economist Stays Focused On The Divine Plan

Possibly from Nikopolis of Epiros, Saint Paul writes to Timothy, his junior co-worker in Christ and Bishop of Ephesos, on the basic theme that the church should be a reflection of the kingdom of God on earth. In the first chapter, among other things, he charges Timothy with disciplining church members so that they avoid wasting time and concentrate instead on what is important.

παραγγείλῃς τισὶ μὴ ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν 4 μηδὲ προσέχειν μύθοις καὶ γενεαλογίαις ἀπεράντοις, αἵτινες ζητήσεις παρέχουσι μᾶλλον ἢ οἰκονομίαν Θεοῦ τὴν ἐν πίστει·

order them not to teach false doctrines nor to give themselves to myths and endless genealogies which bring about senseless speculation rather than God’s plan which is by faith.

In some versions of the Greek text, the word here is οικοδομή, which means building or structure. In either case, God’s work, God’s building, God’s structure and order, God’s plan for man is brought about by faith.

11) Titus 1:7 The Faithful Economist Keeps Good Order

In the overall context of the ministering of the church according to the true faith, Saint Paul charges Titus with selecting suitable bishops for the cities of Crete. In doing so, he lists the attributes of the good bishop, of the faithful economist.

Τούτου χάριν κατέλιπόν σε ἐν Κρήτῃ, ἵνα τὰ λείποντα ἐπιδιορθώσῃ, καὶ καταστήσῃς κατὰ πόλιν πρεσβυτέρους, … δεῖ γὰρ τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνέγκλητον εἶναι ὡς Θεοῦ οἰκονόμον

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order what is lacking and appoint elders in every city … for a bishop must be blameless as a minister of God

Around this passage, Saint Paul lists both what the faithful economist should and should not be. Putting them all into the positive, the attributes of the faithful economist are to live a prudent and orderly life, to be a lover of the good, just, holy, disciplined, faithful to his wife, to raise faithful children, to be steadfast in the teaching of the faithful word, to be hospitable, humble, calm, sober, peaceful, content, temperate, serious, and, in short, sound in faith, love, and patience, or, in other words, to cultivate the fruits of the Holy Spirit within himself, his personal family, and in the body of Christ which is the Church.

12) 1 Peter 4:10 Good Economists Of God’s Multifaceted Grace

The basic theme of Saint Peter’s first epistle is to encourage us to be patient, strong, and remain faithful in suffering: we must endure trials for faith through which we are saved.
No matter what the social circumstances, we must be peacemakers, we must continue to live lives worthy of the example of Christ, focusing on what is really important: through grace God gave us hope, through grace God gave us the unfading inheritance of the resurrection of Christ.
Therefore, Saint Peter reminds us that we must freely choose to be servants of God and, among other things, to be servants of others, each according to his talents.

ἕκαστος καθὼς ἔλαβε χάρισμα, εἰς ἑαυτοὺς αὐτὸ διακονοῦντες ὡς καλοὶ οἰκονόμοι ποικίλης χάριτος Θεοῦ·

As each has received a gift, serve the gift to each other as good ministers of the multifaceted grace of God.

The grace of God is multifaceted indeed, from the creation itself to His sharing of His glory with His living, free-willed creatures, to the dispensation of individual talents through which we have the opportunity to share with one another faithfully in love, on earth as it is in heaven.

V. Conclusion

As mentioned at the outset, the purpose of this essay has not been to write a scholarly or philosophical treatise on economic history or Biblical philology, rather it is meant as a spiritual exercise and, in particular, as a tool for studying more carefully certain aspects of a broad range of New Testament passages as a complement to a well-balanced spiritual life that also centers around prayer, the akolouthia, tradition, and art.

In this exercise, then, we have focused on the Trinitarian God’s creation, His Divine Plan, and His relationship to man.
God dispenses – or allocates – grace, gifts, resources, and responsibilities. Man – the economist – responds, through various levels of understanding and willingness in his heart and mind to the role of the material and the spiritual in the creation, in the Divine Plan: he responds by being dishonest, immature and irresponsible, in which case he is subject to the administration of the laws of men, or he responds by being faithful, responsible and well-ordered, in which case he transcends the laws of men and is instead one who cultivates the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
This is reflected in the purity of man’s heart and his faith, through which is he saved, the way he conducts himself, his family, and the Church, which is the human community and the body of Christ.

The good economist remains faithful to the mysteries of God, to the Good News and to faith itself, he teaches the faith to others, and he takes care of others for this purpose by sharing with them the gifts and talents that God has given him by grace.

Working for our daily bread reminds us just how difficult it is to achieve the kingdom of God. Yet it is so simple if we keep the faith: work, culture, discipline, I know it’s hard.

Faith is the most powerful driving force in the life of any created being. Faith, I say, even if it is only a feeling, because we know what feelings our, the truth. Recite the πιστεύω, then, what we have faith in, our most powerful feeling, translate it and interpret it in light of what we know about the reality of men, and realize why piss-Christ, ass-Christ, the crucified, bloody Christ is our truest and most glorious feeling, the purest expression of who we really are and why, against all the odds, only faith can save us.