Chrysostom Philippians 400
400 But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; which is very far better: yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide, yea and abide with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith; that your glorying may abound in Jesus Christ in me, through my presence with you again.” Ph 1,23-30
401 Nothing can be more blessed than the spirit of Paul, for the reason that nothing is more noble. We all shudder at death, I am wont to say, some by reason of our many sins, of whom I too am one, others from love of life, and cowardice, of whom may I never be one; for they who are subject to this fear are mere animals. This then, which we all shudder at, he prayed for, and hasted toward Him; saying, “To depart is very far better.” What sayest thou? when thou art about to change from earth to heaven, and to be with Christ, dost thou not know what to choose? Nay, far is this from the spirit of Paul; for if such an offer were made to any one on sure grounds, would he not straightway seize it? Yes, for as it is not ours “to depart and be with Christ,” neither, if we were able to attain to this, were it ours to remain here. Both are of Paul, and of his spirit. He was confidently persuaded. What? Art thou about to be with Christ? and dost thou say, “What I shall choose I wot not”? and not this only, but dost thou choose that which is here, “to abide in the flesh”? What in the world? didst thou not live an exceeding bitter life, in “watchings,” in shipwrecks, in “hunger and thirst,” and “nakedness,” in cares and anxiety? “with the weak” thou wert “weak,” and for those who “were made to stumble” thou dost “burn.” (2Co 11,23 11,29). “In much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in fastings, in pureness.” (2Co 6,5-6). “Five times” didst thou “receive forty stripes save one,” “thrice” wast thou “beaten with rods, once” wast thou “stoned” “a night and a day” thou hast “been in the deep, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils among false brethren.” (2Co 11, 24-26). Didst thou not, when the whole nation of the Galatians returned to the observance of the law, didst thou not cry aloud, and say, “Whosoever of you would be justified by the law, ye are fallen away from grace”? (Ga 5,4). How great was then thy grief, and still dost thou desire this perishing life? Had none of these things befallen thee, but had thy success, wherever success attended thee, been without fear, and full of delight, yet shouldest not thou hasten to some harbor, from fear of the uncertain future? For tell me, what trader, whose vessel is full of untold wealth, when he may run into port, and be at rest, would prefer to be still at sea? what wrestler, when he might be crowned, would prefer to contend? what boxer, when he might put on his crown, would choose to enter afresh into the contest, and offer his head to wounds? what general is there, who when he might be quit of war with good report, and trophies, and might with the king refresh himself in the palace, would choose still to toil, and to stand in battle array? How then dost thou, who livest a life so exceeding bitter, wish to remain still here? Didst thou not say, I am in dread, “lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected?” (1Co 9,27). If for no other cause, yet surely for this, thou oughtest to desire thy release; were the present full of innumerable goods, yet for the sake of Christ thy Desire).
Oh that spirit of Paul! nothing was ever like it, nor ever will be! Thou fearest the future, thou art compassed by innumerable dreadful things, and wilt thou not be with Christ? No, he answers, and this for Christ’s sake, that I may render more loving unto Him those whom I have made his servants, that I may make the plot which I have planted bear much fruit. (1Co 3,9). Didst thou not hear me, when I declared that I sought not “that which profited myself” (1Co 10,33), but my neighbor? Heardest thou not these words, “I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ” (Rm 9,3), that many might come unto Him? I, who chose that part, shall I not much rather choose this, shall I not with pleasure harm myself by this delay and postponement, that they may be saved?
“Who shall utter Thy mighty acts, O Lord” (Ps 106,2), because Thou sufferedst not Paul to be hidden, because Thou madest manifest to the world such a man? All the Angels of God praised Thee with one accord, when Thou madest the stars (Jb 38,7), and so too surely when Thou madest the sun, but not so much as when Thou didst manifest Paul to the whole world. By this, the earth was made more brilliant than the heaven, for he is brighter than the solar light, he hath shot forth more brilliant rays, he hath shed abroad more joyous beams. What fruit hath this man borne for us! not by making fat our corn, not by nurturing our pomegranates, but by producing and perfecting the fruit of holiness, and when falling to pieces, continually recovering them. For the sun itself can nothing profit fruits that are once decayed, but Paul has called out of their sins those who had manifold decays. And it gives place to the night, but he had mastery over the Devil. Nothing ever subdued him, nothing mastered him. The sun, when it mounts the heavens, darts down its rays, but he, as he rose from beneath, filled not the mid space of heaven and earth with light, but as soon as he opened his mouth, filled the Angels with exceeding joy. For if “there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth” (Lc 15,7), while he at his first address caught multitudes, does he not fill with, joy the Powers above? What say I? It sufficeth that Paul should only be named, and the heavens leap for joy. For if when the Israelites “went forth out of Egypt, the mountains skipped like rams” (Ps 114,4), how great, thinkest thou, was the joy, when men ascended from earth to heaven!
Ph 1,24. For this cause “to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake.”
402 And what excuse is left to us? ofttimes it happens that a man who possesses a little and poor city, chooses not to depart to another place, preferring his own rest. Paul might depart to Christ, and would not, (Christ whom he so desired, as for his sake to choose even hell, ) but still remained in the contest on behalf of man. What excuse shall we have? May we then even make mention of Paul? Look to his deeds. He showed that to depart was better, persuading himself not to grieve: he showed them, that if he remained, he remained for their sake, that it proceeded not from wickedness of those who plotted against him. He subjoined also the reason, that he might secure their belief. For if this is necessary, that is, I shall by all means remain, and I will not “remain” simply, but “will remain with you.” For this is the meaning of the word, “and I shall abide with,” i.e. I shall see you. For what cause? “For your progress and joy in the faith.” Here too he rouses them, to take heed unto themselves. If, says he, for your sakes I abide, see that ye shame not my abiding. “For your progress,” I have chosen to remain, when I was about to see Christ. I have chosen to remain, because my presence advances both your faith and your joy. What then? Did he remain for the sake of the Philippians only? He stayed not for their sake only; but this he says, that he may show regard to them. And how were they to “progress” in “the faith ”? That you may be more strengthened, like young fowl, who need their mother until their feathers are set. This is a proof of his great love. In like sort, we also rouse some of you, when we say, for your sake have I remained, that I may make you good.
Ph 1,26. “That your glorying may abound in Christ Jesus in me, through my presence with you again.”
You see that this explains the word “abide with you.” Behold his humility. Having said, “for your progress,” he shows that it was for his own profit too. This also he does, when he writes to the Romans, and says, “That is, that we may be comforted together in you.” (Rm 1,11-12). Having previously said, “That I may impart unto you some spiritual gift.” And what means, “That your glorying may abound”? This glorying was, their establishment in the faith. For an upright life is glorying in Christ. And sayest thou, “Your glorying in me, through my presence with you again”? Yes, he answers; “For what is our hope, or crown of glorying? Are not even ye?” (1Th 2,19). Because “you are our glorying, even as we also are yours” (2Co 1,14), i.e. that I may be able to rejoice in you greatly. How sayest thou, “That your glorying may abound”? I may glory the more when you make progress).
“Through my presence with you again.” What then! Did he come to them? Search ye whether he came.
Ph 1,27. “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”
Do you see, how all that he has said, tends to turn them to this one thing, advancement in virtue? “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” What means this word “only,” but that this, and nought else, is the only thing we should seek? If we have this, nothing grievous will befall us. “That whether I come and see you, or be absent, I may hear of your state.” This he says not as if he had changed his purpose, and no longer meant to visit them. But if this come to pass, he says, even though absent, I am able to rejoice.
403 “If,” that is, “I hear that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul.” This is what above all things unites believers, and maintains love unbroken, “that they may be one.” (Jn 17,11). For a “kingdom divided against itself shall not stand.” (Mc 3,24). For this cause he everywhere counsels his disciples much to be of one mind. And Christ says, “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye love one another.” (Jn 13,35). That is, do not look with expectation toward me, and therefore slumber, as waiting for my coming, and then, when ye see me not coming faint. For even from report I can receive pleasure likewise.
What means, “In one spirit”? By the same gift of grace, viz. that of concord, and zeal; for the Spirit is one, and he shows it; for then are we able to stand in “one soul,” also, when we all have “one Spirit.” See how the word “one” is used for concord. See how their souls being many are called one. Thus was it of old. “For they were all,” it is written, “of one heart and of one soul. Striving together for the faith of the Gospel.” (Ac 4,32). Does he say, striving together for each other, as though the faith did strive? For did they wrestle against each other? But help each other, he says, in your striving for the faith of the Gospel.
Ph 1,28. “And in nothing affrighted by the adversaries; which is for them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation.”
Well said he, “affrighted,” this is what befalls us from our enemies, they only frighten. “In nothing” therefore, he says, whatever happens, whether dangers—whether plots. For this is the part of those who stand upright; the enemy can do nought but frighten only. Since it was likely that they should be greatly troubled, when Paul suffered such numberless ills, he says, I exhort you not only not to be shaken, but not to be affrighted, yea rather to despise them heartily; for if ye are thus affected, ye will straightway, by this means, make evident atonce their destruction, and your salvation. For when they see, that with their innumerable plots they are unable to frighten you, they will take it as a proof of their own destruction. For when the persecutors prevail not over the persecuted, the plotters over the objects of their plots, the powerful over those subject to their power, will it not be self-evident, that their perdition is at hand, that their power is nought, that their part is false, that their part is weak? “And this,” he says, “comes from God.”
Ph 1,29. “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer in his behalf.”
Again does he teach them moderation of spirit by referring all to God, and saying that sufferings in behalf of Christ are of grace, the gift of grace, a free gift. Be not then ashamed of the gift of grace, for it is more wonderful than the power of raising the dead, or working miracles; for there I am a debtor, but here I have Christ for my debtor. Wherefore ought we not only not to be ashamed, but even to rejoice, in that we have this girl. Virtues he calls gifts, yet not in like sort as other things, for those are entirely of God, but in these we have a share. But since even here the greatest part is of God, he ascribes it entirely to Him, not to overturn our free will, but to make us humble and rightly disposed.
Ph 1,30. “Having the same conflict which ye saw in me”; i.e. ye have also an example. Here again he raises them up, by showing them that everywhere their conflicts were the same with his, their struggles were the same with his, both severally, and in that they united with him in bearing trials. He said not, ye have heard, but “ye saw,” for he strove too at Philippi. Truly this is an exceeding virtue. Wherefore writing to the Galatians, also he said, “Did ye suffer so many things in vain, if it be indeed in vain.” (Ga 3,4). And again, writing to the Hebrews, he said, “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were enlightened, ye endured a great conflict of suffering; partly, being made a gazing-stock both by reproaches and afflictions.” (He 10,32-33) And writing again to Macedonians, that is, to the Thessalonians, he said, “For they themselves report concerning us, what manner of entering in we had unto you.” (1Th 1,9). And again, “For yourselves, brethren, know our entering in unto you, that it hath not been found vain.” (1Th 2,1). And in like sort does he witness the same things of them all, labors and strivings. But such things ye will not now find among us; now it is much if one suffer a little in goods alone. And in respect of their goods also he witnesses great things of them. For to some he says, “For ye took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions” (He 10,34); and to others, “For it hath been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor” (Rm 15,26); and “your zeal hath stirred up very many of them.” (2Co 9,2).
404 Seest thou the praises of the men of that time? But we endure not so much as buffetings or blows, neither insult nor loss of our possessions: they were straightway zealous, and all of them strove as martyrs, whilst we hive grown cold in love toward Christ. Again I am constrained to accuse things present; and what shall I do? It is against my will, yet am I constrained. Were I able by my silence of things which are done, by holding my peace, and not mentioning aught, to remove them, it would behoove me to be silent. But if the contrary comes to pass; if not only are these things not removed by our silence, but even become worse, we are forced to speak. For he who rebukes sinners, if he does nought else, suffers them not to go farther. For there is no such shameless and rash soul, as not to turn, and remit the extravagance of its evil deeds, on hearing any one continually rebuking it. There is, there is indeed, even in the shameless, a small portion of shame. For God hath sown in our nature the seeds of shame; for since fear was insufficient to bring us to a right tone, He hath also prepared many other ways for avoiding sin. For example, that a man should be accused, fear of the enacted laws, love of reputation, the desire of forming friendships; for all these are paths to avoid sin. Ofttimes that which was not done for God’s sake, was done through shame; that which was not done for God’s sake, was done for fear of men. That which we seek for is, in the first place not to sin, and we shall afterwards succeed in doing this for God’s sake. Else why did Paul exhort those, who were about to overcome their enemies, not by the fear of God, but on the score of waiting for the vengeance? “For by so doing,” he says, “thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.” (Rm 12,20). For this is his first wish, that our virtue should be established. As I said then, there is in us a sense of shame. We have many good natural affections, which lead to virtue; as, for example, all of us men are naturally moved to pity, and no other good thing so inheres in our nature, but this alone. Whence any one might reasonably enquire, wherefore these seeds have above all others been sown in our nature, by which we melt at tears, by which we are turned to compassion, and are ready to pity. No one is naturally idle, no one is naturally regardless of his reputation, no one is naturally above emulation, but pity lies deep in every one’s nature, however fierce and ungentle he be. And what wonder? we pity beasts, such a superabundance of pity lies deep in us. If we see a lion’s whelp, we are somewhat affected; much more in the case of one of our race. See, how many maimed are there! and this is sufficient to lead us to pity. Nothing so much pleases God as mercy. Wherefore with this the priests were anointed, and the kings, and the prophets, for they had, in oil, a type of God’s love to man; and they further learnt, that rulers should have a greater share of mercy. It showed that the Spirit is to come to men through mercy, since God pities and is kind to man. For, “Thou hast mercy upon all,” it is written, “for Thou canst do all things.” (Sg 11,23). For this cause they were anointed with oil: and indeed it was from mercy He appointed the priesthood. And kings were anointed with oil; and would one praise a ruler, he can make mention of nothing so becoming him as mercy. For pity is peculiar to power. Consider that the world was established by pity, and then imitate thy Lord. “The mercy of man is toward his neighbor, but the mercy of the Lord is upon all flesh.” (Si 18,13). How “upon all flesh”? Whether you mean sinners, or just men, we all need the mercy of God; we all enjoy it, be it Paul, be it Peter, or be it John. And listen to their own words; there is no need of mine. For what says this blessed one? “But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly.” (1Tm 1,13). What then, was there afterwards no need of mercy? Hear what he says; “But I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1Co 15,10). And of Epaphroditus he says, “For indeed he was sick, nigh unto death; but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow.” (Ph 2,27). And again he says, “We were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life. Yea, we ourselves have had the answer of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, who delivered us out of so great a death, and will deliver.” (2Co 1,8-10). And again, “And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion; and the Lord will deliver me.” (2Tm 4,17-18). And everywhere we shall find him glorying in this, that by mercy he was saved.
405 Peter, too, became so great, because mercy was shown him. For hear Christ saying to him, “Satan hath desired to sift you as wheat; and I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not.” (Lc 22,31-32). John, too, became so great through mercy, and in short all of them. For listen to Christ when He says, “Ye did not choose Me, but I chose you.” (Jn 15,16). For we all have need of the mercy of God, as it is written, “The mercy of God is upon all flesh.” But if these men needed the mercy of God, what should one say of the rest? For why, tell me, doth He “make the sun to rise on the evil and the good”? Did He withhold the rain for one year, would He not destroy all? And what if He caused overwhelming rain? what if He rained down fire? what if He sent flies? But what do I say? if He were so to do as He once did, would not all perish? If He were to shake the earth, would not all perish? It is now seasonable to say, “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?” (Ps 8,4). Were He only to threaten the earth, all men would become one tomb. “As a drop of water from the bucket,” it is written, “so are the nations in His sight, they shall be counted as very small dust, as the turning of the balance.” (Is 40,15). It were as easy for Him to destroy all things, and to make them again, as for us to turn the balance. He then who has such power over us, and sees us sinning every day, and yet punishes us not, how is it but by mercy He bears with us? Since beasts too exist by mercy: “Thou, Lord, wilt preserve both men and beasts.” (Ps 36,7). He looked upon the earth, and filled it with living things. And wherefore? For thy sake! And wherefore did He make thee? Through His goodness.
There is nothing better than oil. It is the cause of light, and there also it is the cause of light “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning” (Is 58,8)., saith the Prophet, if thou showest pity upon thy neighbour. And as natural oil contains light, so then doth mercy [alms] grant us a great, a marvelous light. Much mention doth Paul, too, make of this mercy. In one place, hear him say, “Only that we should remember the poor.” (Ga 2,10). And in another, “If it be meet for me to go also.” (1Co 16,4). And in every place, turn where you will, ye see him anxious about this very thing. And again, “And let our people also learn to maintain good works.” (Tt 3,14). And again, “These things are good and profitable unto men.” (Tt 3,8). Listen to a certain other one who saith, “Alms do deliver from death” (Tb 12,9).; If Thou takest away pity, “Lord, Lord, who shall stand” (Ps 130,3).; and it is said, If Thou enterest “into judgment with thy servant” (Ps 143,2).; “A great thing is man”; why? “and an honorable thing is a merciful man.” (Pr 20,6), LXX). For this is the true character of man, to be merciful, yea rather the character of God, to show mercy. Dost thou see, how strong is the mercy of God? This made all things, this formed the world, this made the angels, it was through mere goodness. For this cause, too, He threatened hell, that we may attain unto the kingdom, and through mercy we do attain unto the kingdom. For wherefore did God, being alone, create so many beings? was it not through goodness? was it not through love to men? If you ask why such and such things are, you will always find your answer in Goodness. Let us show mercy to our neighbors, that mercy may be shown to us. These acts of mercy we show not so much to them, as lay up for ourselves against That Day. When the flame of the fire is great, this oil (mercy) is that which quenches the fire, and this brings light to us. Thus by this means shall we be freed from the fire of hell. For whence will He be compassionate and show mercy? Mercy comes of love! Nothing incenses God so much as to be pitiless. “A man was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents, and he was moved with compassion, and forgave him. And there were owing to that man from his fellow-servant a hundred pence, and he caught him by the throat. Therefore the Lord delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay what was due.” Let us on hearing this be merciful to those who are our debtors in money or in sins. Let no one remember evils, if at least he does not wish to injure himself; for he does not so much aggrieve the other (as he injures himself). For he either will follow him with vengeance, or he has not done so; but dost thou thyself, while not forgiving thy neighbor his sins, seek for a kingdom? Lest this should happen to us, let us forgive all, (for it is ourselves that we pardon,) that God may forgive us our sins, and so we may obtain the good things which are in store, through the grace and lovingkindness, &c).
500 if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through faction or through vainglory; but in lowliness of mind, each counting other better than himself; not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.” (Ph 2,1-4)
501 There is nothing better, there is nothing more affectionate, than a spiritual teacher; such an one surpasses the kindness of any natural father. Do but consider, how this blessed one entreats the Philippians concerning the things which were to their own advantage. What says he, in exhorting them concerning concord, that cause of all good things? See how earnestly, how vehemently, with how much sympathy he speaks, “If there be therefore any comfort in Christ,” that is, if ye have any comfort in Christ, as if he had said, If thou makest any account of me, if thou hast any care of me, if thou hast ever received good at my hands, do this. This mode of earnestness we use when we claim a matter which we prefer to everything else. For if we did not prefer it to everything, we should not wish to receive in it our recompense for all things, nor say that through it all is represented. We indeed remind men of our carnal claims; for example, if a father were to say, If thou hast any reverence for thy father, if any remembrance of my care in nourishing thee, if any affection towards me, if any memory of the honor thou hast received of me, if any of my kindness, be not at enmity with thy brother; that is, for all those things, this is what I ask in return.
But Paul does not so; he calls to our remembrance no carnal, but all of them spiritual benefits. That is, if ye wish to give me any comfort in my temptations, and encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if ye wish to show any communion in the Spirit, if ye have any tender mercies and compassions, fulfil ye my joy. “If any tender mercies and compassions.” Paul speaks of the concord of his disciples as compassion towards himself, thus showing that the danger was extreme, if they were not of one mind. If I can obtain comfort from you, if Ican obtain any consolation from our love, if I can communicate with you in the Spirit, if I can have fellowship with you in the Lord, if I can find mercy and compassion at your hands, show by your love the return of all this. All this have I gained, if ye love one another.
Ph 2,2. “Fulfil ye my joy.”
That the exhortation might not seem to be made to people who were still deficient, see how he says not, “do me joy,” but “fulfil my joy”; that is, Ye have begun to plant it in me, ye have already given me some portion of peacefulness, but I desire to arrive at its fulness? Say, what wouldest thou? that we deliver thee from dangers? that we supply somewhat to thy need? Not so, but “that ye be of the same mind, having the same love,” in which ye have begun, “being of one accord, of one mind.” Just see, how often he repeats the same thing by reason of his great affection! “That ye be of the same mind,” or rather, “that ye be of one mind.” For this is more than “the same.”
“Having the same love.” That is, let it not be simply about faith alone, but also in all other things; for there is such a thing as to be of the same mind, and yet not to have love. “Having the same love,” that is, love and be loved alike; do not thou enjoy much love, and show less love, so as to be covetous even in this matter; but do not suffer it in thyself. “Of one accord,” he adds, that is, appropriating with one soul, the bodies of all, not in substance, for that is impossible, but in purpose and intention. Let all things proceed as from one soul. What means “of one accord”? He shows when he says “of one mind.” Let your mind be one, as if from one soul.
Ph 2,3. “Doing nothing through faction.”
(He finally demands this of them, and tells them the way how this may be. “Doing nothing through faction or vainglory.” This, as I always say, is the cause of all evil. Hence come fightings and contentions. Hence come envyings and strifes. Hence it is that love waxes cold, when we love the praise of men, when we are slaves to the honor which is paid by the many, for it is not possible for a man to be the slave of praise, and also a true servant of God. How then shall we flee vainglory? for thou hast not yet told us the way. Listen then to what follows.“But in lowliness of mind, each counting other better than himself.” Oh how full of true wisdom, how universal a gathering-word of our salvation is the lesson he has put forth! If thou deemest, he means, that another is greater than thyself, and persuadest thyself so, yea more, if thou not only sayest it, but art fully assured of it, then thou assignest him the honor, and if thou assignest him the honor, thou wilt not be displeased at seeing him honored by another. Do not then think him simply greater than thyself, but “better,” which is a very great superiority, and thou dost not think it strange nor be pained thereby, if thou seest him honored. Yea, though he treat thee with scorn, thou dost bear it nobly, for thou hast esteemed him greater than thyself. Though he revile thee, thou dost submit. Though he treat thee ill, thou bearest it in silence. For when once the soul is fully assured that he is greater, it falls not into anger when it is ill-treated by him, nor yet into envy, for no one would envy those who are very far above himself, for all things belong to his superiority.
502 Here then he instructs the one party to be thus minded. But when he too, who enjoys such honor from thee, is thus affected toward thee, consider what a double wall there is erected of gentle forbearance [comp. Ph 4,5]; for when thou esteemest him thus worthy of honor, and he thee likewise, no painful thing can possibly arise; for if this conduct when shown by one is sufficient to destroy all strife, who shall break down the safeguard, when it is shown by both? Not even the Devil himself. The defense is threefold, and fourfold, yea manifold, for humanity is the cause of all good; and that you may learn this, listen to the prophet, saying, “Hadst thou desired sacrifice, I would have given it: Thou wilt not delight in burnt offerings. The sacrifice for God is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart God will not despise.” (Ps 51,16-17). Not simply humility, but intense humility. As in the case of bodily substances, that which is “broken” will not rise against that which is “solid,” but, how many ills soever it may suffer, will perish itself rather than attack the other, so too the soul, even if constantly suffering ill, will choose rather to die, than to avenge itself by attack.
How long shall we be puffed up thus ridiculously? For as we laugh, when we see children drawing themselves up, and looking haughty, or when we see them picking up stones and throwing them, thus too the haughtiness of men belongs to a puerile intellect, and an unformed mind. “Why are earth and ashes proud?” (Si 10,9). Art thou highminded, O man? and why? tell me what is the gain? Whence art thou highminded against those of thine own kind? Dost not thou share the same nature? the same life? Hast not thou received like honor from God? But thou art wise? Thou oughtest to be thankful, not to be puffed up. Haughtiness is the first act of ingratitude, for it denies the gift of grace. He that is puffed up, is puffed up as if he had excelled by his own strength, and he who thinks he has thus excelled is ungrateful toward Him who bestowed that honor. Hast thou any good? Be thankful to Him who gave it. Listen to what Joseph said, and what Daniel. For when the king of Egypt sent for him, and in the presence of all his host asked him concerning that matter in which the Egyptians, who were most learned in these things, had forsaken the field, when he was on the point of carrying off everything from them, and of appearing wiser than the astrologers, the enchanters, the magicians, and all the wise men of those times, and that from captivity and servitude, and he but a youth (and his glory was thus greater, for it is not the same thing to shine when known, and contrary to expectation, so that its being unlooked for rendered him the more admirable); what then, when he came before Pharaoh? Was it “Yea, I know”? But what? When no one urged it on him, he said from his own excellent spirit, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” Behold he straightway glorified his Master, therefore he was glorified. And this also is no small thing. For that God had revealed it to him was a far greater thing than if he had himself excelled. For he showed that his words were worthy of credit, and it was a very great proof of his intimacy with God. There is no one thing so good as to be the intimate friend of God. “For if,” says the Scripture, “he [Abraham] was justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not toward God.” (Rm 4,2). For if he who has been vouchsafed grace maketh his boast in God, that he is loved of Him, because his sins are forgiven, he too that worketh hath whereof to boast, but not before God, as the other (for it is a proof of our excessive weakness); he who has received wisdom of God, how much more admirable is he? He glorifies God and is glorified of Him, for He says, “Them that honor Me, I will honor.” (1S 2,30).
Again, listen to him who descended from Joseph, than whom no one was wiser. “Art thou wiser,” says he, “than Daniel?” (Ez 28,3). This Daniel then, when all the wise men that were in Babylon, and the astrologers moreover, the prophets, the magicians, the enchanters, yea when the whole of their wisdom was not only coming to be convicted, but to be wholly destroyed (for their being destroyed was a clear proof that they had deceived before), this Daniel coming forward, and preparing to solve the king’s question, does not take the honor to himself, but first ascribes the whole to God, and says, “But as for me, O king, it is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have beyond all men.” (Da 2,30). And “the king worshiped him, and commanded that they should offer an oblation.” (Da 2,46). Seest thou his humility? seest thou his excellent spirit? seest thou this habit of lowliness? Listen also to the Apostles, saying at one time, "Why fasten ye your eyes on us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man to walk? (Ac 3,12). And again, “We are men of like passions with you.” (Ac 14,15). Now if they thus refused the honors paid them, men who by reason of the humility and power of Christ wrought greater deeds than Christ (for He says, “He that believeth in Me shall do greater works than those that I do” (Jn 14,12), abr.), shall not we wretched and miserable men do so, who cannot even beat away gnats, much less devils? who have not power to benefit a single man, much less the whole world, and yet think so much of ourselves that the Devil himself is not like us?
503 There is nothing so foreign to a Christian soul as haughtiness. Haughtiness, I say, not boldness nor courage, for these are congenial. But these are one thing, and that another; so too humility is one thing, and meanness, flattery, and adulation another.
I will now, if you wish, give you examples of all these qualities. For these things which are contraries, seem in some way to be placed near together, as the tares to the wheat, and the thorns to the rose. But while babes might easilybe deceived, they who are men in truth, and are skilled in spiritual husbandry, know how to separate what is really good from the bad. Let me then lay before you examples of these qualities from the Scriptures. What is flattery, and meanness, and adulation? Ziba flattered David out of season, and falsely slandered his master. (2S 16,1-3). Much more did Ahitophel flatter Absalom. (2S 17,1-4). But David was not so, but he was humble. For the deceitful are flatterers, as when they say, “O king, live for ever.” (Da 2,4). Again, what flatterers the magicians are.
We shall find much to exemplify this in the case of Paul in the Acts. When he disputed with the Jews he did not flatter them, but was humble-minded (for he knew how to speak boldly), as when he says, “I, brethren, though I had done nothing against the people, or the customs of our fathers, yet was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem.” (Ac 28,17).
That these were the words of humility, listen how he rebukes them in what follows, “Well spake the Holy Ghost, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in nowise understand, and seeing ye shall see, and in nowise perceive.” (Ac 28,25-26).
Seest thou his courage? Behold also the courage of Jn the Baptist, which he used before Herod; when he said, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother Philip’s wife.” (Mc 6,18) This was boldness, this was courage. Not so the words of Shimei, when he said, “Begone, thou man of blood” (2S 16,7)., and yet he too spake with boldness; but this is not courage, but audacity, and insolence, and an unbridled tongue. Jezebel too reproached Jehu, when she said, “The slayer of his master” (2R 9,31)., but this was audacity, not boldness. Elias too reproached, but this was boldness and courage; “I do not trouble Israel, but thou and thy father’s house.” (1R 18,18). Again, Elias spake with boldness to the whole people, saying, “How long will ye go lame on both your thighs?” (1R 18,21), LXX). Thus to rebuke was boldness and courage. This too the prophets did, but that other was audacity.
Would you see words both of humility and not of flattery, listen to Paul, saying, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment; yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing against myself, yet am I not hereby justified.” (1Co 4,3-4). This is of a spirit that becomes a Christian; and again, “Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbor, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints”? (1Co 6,1).
Would you see the flattery of the foolish Jews? listen to them, saying, “We have no king but Caesar.” (Jn 19,15). Would you see humility? listen to Paul again, when he says, “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2Co 4,5). Would you see both flattery and audacity? “Audacity” (1S 25,10). in the case of Nabal, and “flattery” (1S 23,20). in that of the Ziphites? For in their purpose they betrayed David. Would you see “wisdom” (1S 26,5-12) and not flattery, that of David, how he gat Saul into his power, and yet spared him? Would you see the flattery of those who murdered Mephibosheth, whom also David slew? In fine, and as it were in outline, to sum up all, audacity is shown when one is enraged, and insults another for no just cause, either to avenge himself, or in some unjust way is audacious; but boldness and courage are when we dare to face perils and deaths, and despise friendships and enmities for the sake of what is pleasing to God. Again, flattery and meanness are when one courts another not for any right end, but hunting after some of the things of this life; but humility, when one does this for the sake of things pleasing to God, and descends from his own proper station that he may perform something great and admirable. If we know these things, happy are we if we do them. For to know them is not enough. For Scripture says, “Not the hearers of a law, but the doers of a law shall be justified.” (Rm 2,13). Yea, knowledge itself condemneth, when it is without action and deeds of virtue. Wherefore that we may escape the condemnation, let us follow after the practice, that we may obtain those good things that are promised to us, by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Chrysostom Philippians 400