Chrysostom 1 Tm 1100
1100 not given much to wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved: then let them use the office of a Deacon, being found blameless.”
1101 Discoursing of Bishops, and having described their character, and the qualities which they ought to possess, and having passed over the order of Presbyters, he proceeds to that of Deacons. The reason of this omission was, that between Presbyters and Bishops there was no great difference. Both had undertaken the office of Teachers and Presidents in the Church, and what he has said concerning Bishops is applicable to Presbyters. For they are only superior in having the power of ordination, and seem to have no other advantage over Presbyters.
“Likewise the Deacons.” That is, they should have the same qualities as Bishops. And what are these same? To be blameless, sober, hospitable, patient, not brawlers, not covetous. And that he means this when he says “likewise,” is evident from what he says in addition, “grave, not doubletongued”; that is, not hollow or deceitful. For nothing so debases a man as deceit, nothing is so pernicious in the Church as insincerity. “Not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.” Thus he explains what he means by “blameless.” And here he requires, though in other words, that he be “not a novice,” where he says, “Let these also first be proved,” where the conjunction “also” is added, as connecting this with what had been said before of Bishops, for nothing intervenes between. And there is the same reason for the “not a novice” in that case. For would it not be absurd, that when a newly purchased slave is not entrusted with anything in a house, till he has by long trial given proofs of his character, yet that one should enter into the Church of God from a state of heathenism, and be at once placed in a station of preeminence?
1Tm 3,11. “Even so must the women be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.”
Some have thought that this is said of women generally, but it is not so, for why should he introduce anything about women to interfere with his subject? He is speaking of those who hold the rank of Deaconesses.
1Tm 3,12. “Let the Deacons be husbands of one wife.”
This must be understood therefore to relate to Deaconesses. For that order is necessary and useful and honorable in the Church. Observe how he requires the same virtue from the Deacons, as from the Bishops, for though they were not of equal rank, they must equally be blameless; equally pure.
“Ruling their children and their own houses well.”
1Tm 3,13. “For they that have used the office of a Deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and much boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Everywhere they are required to rule their children well, that others may not be scandalized by their misconduct.
“They that use the office of a Deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree,” that is, advancement, “and much boldness in the faith of Jesus Christ”; as if he would say, that those who have been found vigilant in the lower degree will soon ascend to the higher.
1Tm 3,14-15. “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly. But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
That he may not plunge Timothy into dejection by giving him orders about such matters, he says, I write thus not as though I were not coming, but I will indeed come, still in case I should be delayed, that thou mayest not be distressed. And this he writes to him to prevent his being dejected, but to others in order torouse them to greater earnestness. For his presence, though only promised, would have great effect. Nor let it seem strange that, though foreseeing everything through the Spirit, he was yet ignorant of this, and only says, I hope to come, but if I tarry, which implies uncertainty. For since he was led by the Spirit, and did not act from his own inclination, he was naturally uncertain about this matter.
“That thou mayest know,” he says, “how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Not like that Jewish house. For it is this that maintains the faith and the preaching of the Word. For the truth is the pillar and the ground of the Church).
1Tm 3,16. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God [He who] was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit.”
Here he speaks of the Dispensation in our behalf. Tell me not of the bells, nor of the holy of holies, nor of the high priest. The Church is the pillar of the world. Consider this mystery, and thou mayest be struck with awe: for it is indeed “a great mystery,” and “a mystery of godliness,” and that “without controversy” or question, for it is beyond all doubt. Since in his directions to the Priests he had required nothing like what is found in Leviticus he refers the whole matter to Another, saying, “God was manifest in the flesh.” The Creator was seen incarnate. “He was justified in the Spirit.” As it is said, “Wisdom is justified of her children,” or because He practiced no guile, as the Prophet says, “Because he had done no violence, neither was guile found in his mouth.” (Is 53,9 1P 2,22) “Seen of Angels.” So that Angels together with us saw the Son of God, not having before seen Him. Great, truly great, was this mystery! “Preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world.” He was heard of and believed in through all parts of the world, as the Prophet foreshowed, saying, “Their sound is gone out into all the world.” (Ps 19,4) Think not that these things are mere words, for they are not, but full of hidden realities. “Received up into glory.” He ascended upon clouds. “This Jesus,” it is said, “Who is taken up from you, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” (Ac 1,11)
The discretion of the blessed Paul is observable. When he would exhort the Deacons to avoid excess in wine, he does not say, “Be not drunken,” but “not” even “given to much wine.” A proper caution; for if those who served in the Temple did not taste wine at all, much more should not these, For wine produces disorder of mind, and where it does not cause drunkenness, it destroys the energies and relaxes the firmness of the soul.
The dispensation in our behalf he calls a “mystery,” and well may it be so called, since it is not manifest to all, nay, it was not manifest to the Angels, for how could it, when it was “made known by the Church”? (Ep 3,10) Therefore he says, “without controversy great is the mystery.” Great indeed was it. For God became Man, and Man became God. A Man was seen without sin! A Man was received up, was preached in the world! Together with us the Angels saw Him. This is indeed a mystery! Let us not then expose this mystery. Let us not lay it forth everywhere, but let us live in a manner worthy of the mystery. They to whom a mystery is intrusted are great persons. We account it a mark of favor, if a king intrusts a secret to us. But God has committed His mystery to us, yet are we ungrateful to our Benefactor, as if we had not received the greatest benefits. Our insensibility to such a kindness should strike us with horror. And how is that a mystery which all know? In the first place all do not know it, and before then too they knew it not, but now it is made manifest).
1102 Moral. In keeping this mystery, then, let us be faithful to our trust. So great a mystery has He intrusted to us, and we do not trust Him even with our money, though He has bid us lay up our wealth with Him, where none can take it away, neither can moth nor thief waste it. And He promises to pay us a hundred-fold, yet we obey Him not. Yet here if we intrust any with a deposit, we receive nothing back in addition, but are thankful if that is restored which we deposited. If a thief steals it there, He saith, set that to My account; I say not to thee, a thief has taken it, or moth devoured it. He repays a hundred-fold here, and eternal life is superadded hereafter, yet do we not lay up our treasure there! “But,” you say, “He repays slowly.” Well this too is a proof of the greatness of His gift, that He does not repay here in this mortal life; or rather He does repay even here a hundred-fold. For did not Paul leave here his tools, Peter his rod and hook, and Matthew hisseat of custom? and was not the whole world opened to them more than to kings? Were not all things laid at their feet? Were they not appointed rulers, and lords? Did not men commit their lives into their hands? suspend themselves wholly upon their counsel, and enlist in their service? And do we not see many similar occurrences even now? Many men of poor and humble means, who did but handle the spade, and had hardly a sufficiency of necessary food, having but the character of monks, have been celebrated above all men, and honored of kings.
Are these things inconsiderable? Well, consider that these are but additions, the principal sum is stored up for the life to come. Despise riches, if thou wouldest have riches. If thou wouldest be truly rich, become poor. For such are the paradoxes of God. He would not have thee rich from thy own care, but from His grace. Leave these things to Me, He says; make spiritual things thy concern, that thou mayest know My power. Flee from that yoke of slavery, which riches impose. As long as thou cleavest to them, thou art poor. When thou despisest them, thou art doubly rich, in that such things shall flow in upon thee from every side, and in that thou shall want none of those things, which the multitude want. For not to possess much, but to need little, is to be rich indeed. The king, so long as he wants aught, differs not from the poor man. For this is poverty, to stand in need of others; and by this argument the king is poor, in so far as he stands in need of his subjects. But he that is crucified, to the world is not so; he wants for nothing; for his hands are sufficient for his subsistence, as Paul said, “These hands have ministered to my necessities, and to them that were with me.”(Ac 20,34) These are his words who says,“As having nothing, yet possessing all things.” (2Co 6,20) This is he who was thought a God by the inhabitants of Lystra. If thou wouldest obtain worldly things, seek Heaven; if you wouldest enjoy things here, despise them. For, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God,” He saith, “and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt 6,33)
Why dost thou admire these trifles? Why long for things of no real worth? How long is one poor? how long a beggar? Raise thine eyes to heaven, think of the riches there, and smile at gold; think of how little use it is; that the enjoyment of it lasts but for the present life, and that compared with eternity, the present life is as a grain of sand, or as a drop of water to the boundless ocean. This wealth is not a possession, it is not property, it is a loan for use. For when thou diest, willingly or unwillingly, all that thou hast goes to others, and they again give it up to others, and they again to others. For we are all sojourners; and the tenant of the house is more truly perchance the owner of it, for the owner dies, and the tenant lives, and still enjoys the house. And if the latter hires it, the other might be said to hire it too: for he built it, and was at pains with it, and fitted it up. Property, in fact, is but a word: we are all owners in fact but of other men’s possessions. Those things only are our own, which we have sent before us to the other world. Our goods here are not our own; we have only a life interest in them; or rather they fail us during our lives. Only the virtues of the soul are properly our own, as alms-giving and charity. Worldly goods, even by those without, were called external things, because they are without us. But let us make them internal. For we cannot take our wealth with us, when we depart hence, but we can take our charities. But let us rather send them before us, that they may prepare for us an abode in the eternal mansions. (Lc 16,9)
1103 Goods are named from use, not from lordship, and are not our own, and possessions are not a property but a loan. For how many masters has every estate had, and how many will it have! There is a sensible proverb, (and popular proverbs, when they contain any wisdom, are not to be despised,) “O field, how many men’s hast thou been, and how many men’s wilt thou be?” This we should say to our houses and all our goods. Virtue alone is able to depart with us, and to accompany us to the world above. Let us then give up and extinguish that love of wealth, that we may kindle in us an affection for heavenly things. These two affections cannot possess one soul. For it is said, “Either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” (Mt 6,24) Seest thou a man with a long train of attendants, clearing a way along the streets, clothed in silken garments, riding aloft, and stiffening his neck? Be not overawed, but smile. As we laugh when we see children playing at kings, so laugh at his state, for it is no better than theirs, nor indeed so pleasant, for there is not the same innocence and simplicity as with children. With them it is laughter and pleasure, here is a man made ridiculous and contemptible.
Glorify God, Who has kept thee free from this theatrical ostentation. For, if thou wilt, humble as thy station is, thou mayest be higher than he who is exalted in his chariot. And why? because, though his body is a little raised from the earth, his soul is fixed upon it, for “My strength,” he saith, “cleaveth to my flesh” (Ps 102,6), but thou in thy spirit walkest in heaven. What though he has many attendants clearing his way? is he more honored by this than his horse? and what an absurdity is it, to drive men before one to clear the way for a beast to pass! Then what sort of honor is it to bestride a horse? an honor shared by his slaves Yet some are so vain of this, that they have it led after them even though they do not want it. What greater folly can there be? To wish to be distinguished by their horses, by the costliness of their garments, by their retinue! What can be more contemptible than glory which consists in horses, and servants? Art thou virtuous? use not such distinctions. Have ornaments in thyself. Be not indebted for thy glory to the presence of others. To such honor the most wicked, corrupt, and base of men may attain; all indeed who are rich. Actors and dancers may ride on horseback with a servant running before them, yet are they but actors and dancers still. Their horses and attendants procure them no respect. For when the graces of the soul are wanting to such persons, the addition of these external things is superfluous and vain. And as when a wall is weak, or a body disordered, whatever you put upon it, it still remains unsound and decayed; so in this case; the soul continues the same, and receives no advantage from things without, not though the man wear a thousand ornaments of gold. Let us not therefore be anxious for such things. Let us withdraw ourselves from temporal things, and pursue greater, even spiritual distinctions, which will render us truly objects of veneration, that we also may obtain the blessings of futurity, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, &c.
1200 that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”
1201 As those who adhere to the faith are fixed on a safe anchor, so those who fall from the faith can nowhere rest; but after many wanderings to and fro, they are borne at last into the very gulf of perdition. And this he had shown before, saying, that some had “already made shipwreck concerning the faith,” and now he says, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits.” This is said of the Manichaeans, the Encratites, and the Marcionites, and the whole of their tribe, that they should hereafter depart from the faith. Seest thou that this departure from the faith is the cause of all the evils that follow!
But what is “expressly”? Plainly, clearly, and beyond doubt. Marvel not, he says, if some having departed from the faith still adhere to Judaism. There will be a time, when even those who have partaken of the faith will fall into a worse error, not only with respect to meats, but to marriages, and other such things, introducing the most pernicious notions. This refers not to the Jews, (for “the latter times,” and a “departure from the faith,” is not applicable to them;) but to the Manichees, and the founders of these sects. And he calls them very justly, “seducing spirits,” since it was by these they were actuated in speaking such things. “Speaking lies in hypocrisy.” This implies that they utter not these falsehoods through ignorance and unknowingly, but as acting a part, knowing the truth, but “having their conscience seared,” that is, being men of evil lives.
But why does he speak only of these heretics? Christ had before said, “Offenses must need come” (Mt 18,7), and he had predicted the same in his parable of the sower, and of the springing up of the tares. But here admire with me the prophetic gift of Paul, who, before the times in which they were to appear, specifies the time itself. As if he had said, Do not wonder, if, at the commencement of the faith, some endeavor to bring in these pernicious doctrines; since, after it has been established for a length of time, many shall depart from the faith. “Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats.” Why then has he mentioned no other heresies? Though not particularized, they are implied by the expressions of “seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.” But he did not wish to instill these things into the minds of men before the time; but that which had already commenced, the case of meats, he specifies. “Which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” Why did he not say, by the unbelievers too? How by the unbelievers, when they exclude themselves from them by their own rules? But is not luxury forbidden? Certainly it is. But why? if good things are created to be received. Because He created bread, and yet too much is forbidden; and wine also, and yet excess is forbidden; and we are not commanded to avoid dainties as if they were unclean in themselves, but as they corrupt the soul by excess.
1Tm 4,4. “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.”
If it be the creature of God, it is good. For “all things,” it is said, “were very good.” (Gn 1,31) By speaking thus of things eatable, he by anticipation impugns the heresy of those who introduce an uncreated matter, and assert that these things proceed from it. But if it is good, why is it “sanctified by the word of God and prayers”? For it must be unclean, if it is to be sanctified? Not so, here he is speaking to those who thought that some of these things were common; therefore he lays down two positions: first, that no creature of God is unclean: secondly, that if it were become so, you have a remedy, seal it, give thanks, and glorify God, and all the uncleanness passes away. Can we then so cleanse that which is offered to an idol? If you know not that it was so offered. But if, knowing this, you partake of it, you will be unclean; not because it was offered to an idol, but because contrary to an express command, you thereby communicate with devils. So that it is not unclean by nature, but becomes so through your wilful disobedience. What then, is not swine’s flesh unclean? By no means, when it is received with thanksgiving, and with the seal; nor is anything else. It is your unthankful disposition to God that is unclean.
1Tm 4,6. “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shall be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.”
What are the things here meant? The same which he had before mentioned, that “great is the mystery”; that to abstain from meats is the doctrine of devils, that they are “cleansed by the word of God and prayer.”
1Tm 4,7. “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.”
“Putting them in remembrance,” he says; here you observe no authority; but all is condescension: he does not say “commanding” or “enjoining,” but reminding them: that is, suggest these things as matter of advice, and so enter into discourses with them concerning the faith, “being nourished up,” he says, meaning to imply constancy in application to these things.
1202 For as we set before us day by day this bodily nourishment, so he means, let us be continually receiving discourses concerning the faith, and ever be nourished with them. What is this, “being nourished up”? Ruminating upon them; attending ever to the same things, and practicing ever the same, for it is no common nourishment that they supply.
“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables.” By these are meant Jewish traditions, and he calls them “fables,” either because of their falsehood or their unseasonableness. For what is seasonable is useful, but what is unseasonable is not only useless but injurious. Suppose a man of adult age to be suckled by a nurse, would he not be ridiculous, because it is unseasonable? “Profane and old wives’ fables,” he calls them, partly because of their obsoleteness, and partly because they are impediments to faith. For to bring souls under fear, that are raised above these things, is an impious commandment. “Exercise thyself unto godliness.” That is, unto a pure faith and a moral life; for this is godliness. So then we need “exercise.”
1Tm 4,8. “For bodily exercise profiteth little.” This has by some been referred to fasting; but away with such a notion! for that is not a bodily but a spiritual exercise. If it were bodily it would nourish the body, whereas it wastes and makes it lean, so that it is not bodily. Hence he is not speaking of the discipline of the body. What we need, therefore, is the exercise of the soul. For the exercise of the body hath no profit, but may benefit the body a little, but the exercise of godliness yields fruit and advantage both here and hereafter).
“This is a faithful saying,” that is, it is true that godliness is profitable both here and hereafter. Observe how everywhere he brings in this, he needs no demonstration, but simply declares it, for he was addressing Timothy.
(So then even here, we have good hopes? For he who is conscious to himself of no evil, and who has been fruitful in good, rejoices even here: as the wicked man on the other hand is punished here as well as hereafter. He lives in perpetual fear, he can look no one in the face with confidence, he is pale, trembling, and full of anxiety. Is it not so with the fraudulent, and with thieves, who have no satisfaction even in what they possess? Is not the life of murderers and adulterers most wretched, who look upon the sun itself with suspicion? Is this to be called life? No; rather a horrid death!
1Tm 4,10. “For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe.”
This in effect is to say, wherefore do wemortify ourselves, unless we expect future blessings? Have we endured so many evils, submitted to so many reproaches, suffered such insults and calumnies, and such numerous calamities in vain? For if we did not trust in the living God, on what account did we submit to these things? But if God is here the Saviour of the unbelieving, much more is He of the faithful hereafter. What salvation does he speak of? That to come? “Who is the Saviour,” he says, “of all men, specially of them that believe.” At present he is speaking of that which is here. But how is He the Saviour of the faithful? Had he not been so, they must long since have been destroyed, for all men have made war upon them. He calls him here to endure perils, that having God for his Saviour he may not faint nor need any aid from others, but willingly and with fortitude endure all things. Even those who eagerly grasp at worldly advantages, supported by the hope of gain, cheerfully undertake laborious enterprises.
It is then the last time. For “in the latter times,” he says, “some shall depart from the faith.” “Forbidding to marry.” And do not we forbid to marry? God forbid. We do not forbid those who wish to marry, but those who do not wish to marry, we exhort to virginity. It is one thing to forbid, and another to leave one to his own free choice. He that forbids, does it once for all, but he who recommends virginity as a higher state, does not forbid marriage, because he prefers virginity.
“Forbidding to marry,” he says, “and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” It is well said, “who know the truth.” The former things then were a type. For nothing is unclean by nature, but it becomes so through the conscience of him that partakes of it. And what was theobject of the prohibition of so many meats? To restrain excessive luxury. But had it been said, “eat not for the sake of luxury,” it would not have been borne. They were therefore shut up under the necessity of the law, that they might abstain from the stronger principle of fear. The fish was not forbidden, though it was manifestly more unclean than the swine. But they might have learned how pernicious luxury was from that saying of Moses, “Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked.” (Dt 32,15) Another cause of these prohibitions might be, that being straitened for other food, they might be reduced to slaughter sheep and oxen; he therefore restrained them from other things, on account of Apis and the calf, which was an abomination, ungrateful, polluted, and profane).
1203 “Put them in remembrance of these things, meditate upon these things,” for by the expression, “nourished up in the words of faith and sound doctrine,” is implied that he should not only recommend these things to others, but himself practice them. For he says, “Nourished up in the words of faith, and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables.” Why does he not say, abstain from them, but “refuse”? He thus intimates that they should be utterly rejected. His meaning is, that he should not enter into any disputation with the teachers of them, but recommend to his own people the things prescribed above. For nothing is to be gained by contending with perverse men, unless where it might have an injurious effect, if we were supposed from weakness to decline arguing with them.
“But exercise thyself unto godliness,” that is, unto a pure life, and the most virtuous conversation. He that exerciseth himself, even when it is not the season of contest, acts always as if he were contending, practices abstinence, endures all toils, is always anxious, endures much labor. “Exercise thyself,” he saith, “unto godliness; for bodily exercise profiteth little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” And why, says one, does he mention this bodily exercise? To show by comparison the superiority of the other, in that the former is of no solid advantage, though it is attended with many toils, whilst the latter has a lasting and abundant good. As when he bids women “adorn themselves, not with broidered hair, or gold, or costly array: but which becometh women possessing godliness; with good works.” (1Tm 2,9-10)
Moral. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach.” Did Paul then suffer reproach, and art thou impatient? Did Paul labor, and wouldest thou live luxuriously? But had he lived luxuriously, he would never have attained such great blessings. For if worldly goods, which are uncertain and perishable, are never gained by men without labor and pains, much less are spiritual. Well, saith one, but some inherit them. Yet even when inherited they are not guarded and preserved without labor, and care, and trouble, no less than those have that have gained them. And I need not say that many who have toiled and endured hardships have been disappointed at the very entrance of the harbor, and an adverse wind has caused the wreck of their hopes, when they were upon the point of possession. But with us there is nothing like this. For it is God whopromised, and that “hope maketh not ashamed.” (Rm 5,5) Ye who are conversant with worldly affairs, know ye not how many men, after infinite toils, have not enjoyed the fruit of their labors, either being previously cut off by death, or overtaken by misfortune, or assailed by disease, or ruined by false accusers, or some other cause, which amidst the variety of human casualties, has forced them to go with empty hands?
But do you not see the lucky men, says one, who with little labor acquire the good things of life? What good things? Money, houses, so many acres of land, trains of servants, heaps of gold and silver? Can you call these good things, and not hide your head for shame? A man called to the pursuit of heavenly wisdom, and gaping after worldly things, and calling them “goods,” which are of no value! If thesethings are good, then the possessors of them must be called good. For is not he good, whois the possessor of what is good? But when the possessors of these things are guilty of fraud and rapine, shall we call them good? For if wealth is a good, but is increased by grasping, the more it is increased, the more will its possessor be considered to be good. Is the grasping man then good? But if wealth is good, and increases by grasping, the more a man grasps, the better he must be. Is not this plainly a contradiction? But suppose the wealth is not gained wrongfully. And how is this possible? So destructive a passion is avarice, that to grow rich without injustice is impossible. This Christ declared, saying, “Make to yourselves friends of the Mammon of unrighteousness.” (Lc 16,19) But what if he succeeded to his father’s inheritance? Then he received what had been gathered by injustice. For it was not from Adam that his ancestor inherited riches, but, of the many that were before him, some one must probably have unjustly taken and enjoyed the goods of others. What then? he says, did Abraham hold unrighteous wealth; and Job, that blameless, righteous, and faithful man, who “feared God and eschewed evil”? Theirs was a wealth that consisted not in gold and silver, nor in houses, but in cattle. Besides this, he was enriched by God. And the author of that book, relating what happened to that blessed man, mentions the loss of his camels, his mares and asses, but does not speak of treasures of gold or silver being taken away. The riches of Abraham too were his domestics. What then? Did he not buy them? No, for to this very point the Scripture says, that the three hundred and eighteen were born in his house. (Gn 19,14) He had also sheep and oxen. Whence then did he send gold to Rebekah? (Gn 24,22 Gn 12,16) From the gifts which he received from Egypt without violence or wrong.
1204 Tell me, then, whence art thou rich? From whom didst thou receive it, and from whom he who transmitted it to thee? From his father and his grandfather. But canst thou, ascending through many generations, show the acquisition just? It cannot be. The root and origin of it must have been injustice. Why? Because God in the beginning made not one man rich, and another poor. Nor did He afterwards take and show to one treasures of gold, and deny to the other the right of searching for it: but He left the earth free to all alike. Why then, if it is common, have you so many acres of land, while your neighbor has not a portion of it? It was transmitted to me by my father. And by whom to him? By his forefathers. But you must go back and find the original owner. Jacob had wealth, but it was earned as the hire of his labors.
But I will not urge this argument too closely. Let your riches be justly gained, and without rapine. For you are not responsible for the covetous acts of your father. Your wealth may be derived from rapine; but you were not the plunderer. Or granting that he did not obtain it by robbery, that his gold was cast up somewhere out of the earth. What then? Is wealth therefore good? By no means. At the same time it is not bad, he says, if its possessor be not covetous; it is not bad, if it be distributed to the poor, otherwise it is bad, it is ensnaring. “But if he does not evil, though he does no good, it is not bad,” he argues. True. But is not this an evil, that you alone should have the Lord’s property, that you alone should enjoy what is common? Is not “the earth God’s, and the fullness thereof”? If then our possessions belong to one common Lord, they belong also to our fellow-servants. The possessions of one Lord are all common. Do we not see this the settled rule in great houses? To all is given an equal portion of provisions, for it proceeds from the treasures of their Lord. And the house of the master is opened to all. The king’s possessions are all common, as cities, market-places, and public walks. We all share them equally.
(Mark the wise dispensation of God. That He might put mankind to shame, He hath made certain things common, as the sun, air, earth, and water, the heaven, the sea, the light, the stars; whose benefits are dispensed equally to all as brethren. We are all formed with the same eyes, the same body, the same soul, the same structure in all respects, all things from the earth, all men from one man, and all in the same habitation. But these are not enough to shame us. Other things then (as we have said)He hath made common, as baths, cities, market-places, walks. And observe, that concerning things that are common there is no contention, but all is peaceable. But when one attempts to possess himself of anything, to make it his own, then contention is introduced, as if nature herself were indignant, that when God brings us together in every way, we are eager to divide and separate ourselves by appropriating things, and by using those cold words “mine and thine.” Then there is contention and uneasiness. But where this is not, no strife or contention is bred. This state therefore is rather our inheritance, and more agreeable to nature. Why is it, that there is never a dispute about a market-place? Is it not because it is common to all? But about a house, and about property, men are always disputing. Things necessary are set before us in common; but even in the least things we do not observe a community. Yet those greater things He hath opened freely to all, that we might thence be instructed to have these inferior things in common. Yet for all this, we are not instructed.
But as I said, how can he, who is rich, be a good man? When he distributes his riches, he is good, so that he is good when he has ceased to have it, when he gives it to others; but whilst he keeps it himself, he is not good. How then is that a good which being retained renders men evil, being parted with makes them good? Not therefore to have wealth, but to have it not, makes one appear to be good. Wealth therefore is not a good. But if, when you can receive it, you receive it not, again you are good.
If then we are good, when having it, we distribute it to others; or when offered to us we refuse it, and if we are not good, when we receive or gain it, how can it be a good thing in itself? Call it not therefore a good. You possess it not, because you think it a good, because you are anxious to possess it. Cleanse thy mind, and rectify thy judgment, and then thou wilt be good. Learn what are really goods. What are they? Virtue and benevolence. These and not that, are truly good. According to this rule, the more charitable thou art, the more good thou wilt be considered. But if thou art rich, thou art no longer good. Let us therefore become thus good, that we may be really good, and may obtain the good things to come in Jesus Christ, with whom, &c).
Chrysostom 1 Tm 1100