Chrysostom 1 Tm 1500
1500 for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having condemnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned asideafter Satan.”
1501 Paul having discoursed much concerning widows, and having settled the age at which they were to be admitted, saying, “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old,” and having described the qualifications of a widow, “If she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if shehave washed the Saints’ feet,” proceeds now to say, “But the younger widows refuse.” But concerning virgins, though the case of their falling is a much more gross one, he has said nothing of this kind, and rightly. For they had enrolled themselves on higher views, and the work with them proceeded from a greater elevation of mind. Therefore the receiving of strangers, and the washing of the Saints’ feet, he has represented by “attending upon the Lord without distraction” (1Co 7,34-35), and by saying, “The unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord.” (1Co 7,34-35) And if he has not limited a particular age for them, it is most likely because that point is settled by what he has said in this case. But indeed, as I said, the choice of virginity proceeded from a higher purpose. Besides, in thiscase there had been falls, and thus they had given occasion for his rule, but nothing of that kind had occurred among the virgins. For that some had already fallen away is plain, in that he says, “When they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry”; and again, “For some have already turned aside after Satan.”
“The younger widows refuse, for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry”; that is, when they have become scornful and luxurious. For as in the case ofa just man, we might say, “Let her depart, forshe has become another’s.” He shows therefore that though they chose widowhood, it was not the choice of their judgment. So then a widow, by the state of widowhood, is espoused to Christ. For He has said, “I am the defender of the widows and the father of the orphans.” (Ps 68,5) He shows that they do not choose widowhood as they ought, but wax wanton: however he bears with them. Elsewhere indeed he says, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2Co 11,2) After having given their names to Him, “they will marry,” he says, “having condemnation, because they have cast off their first faith.” By faith he means, fidelity to their covenant. As if he had said, They have been false to Christ, they have dishonored Him, and transgressed His covenant. “And withal they learn to be idle.”
Thus he commands not only men, but women also, to work. For idleness is the teacher of every sin. And not only are they exposed to this condemnation, but to other sins. If therefore it is unbecoming for a married woman “to go from house to house,” much more is it for a virgin. “And not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, guide the house.”
What then happens, when the care for the husband is withdrawn, and the care to please God does not constrain them? They naturallybecome idlers, tattlers, and busybodies. For he who does not attend to his own concerns will be meddling with those of others, even as he who minds his own business will take no account of and have no care about the affairs of another. And nothing is so unbecoming to a woman, as to busy herself in the concerns of others, and it is no less unbecoming to a man. This is a great sign of impudence and forwardness.
“I will therefore,” he says, (since they themselves wish it,) “that the younger widows marry, bear children, guide the house.”
This course is at least preferable to the other. They ought indeed to be concerned for the things of God, they ought to preserve their faith. But since they do not this, it is better to avoid a worse course. God is not dishonored by their marrying again, and they do not fall into those practices, which have been censured. From such a widowhood, no good could arise, but good may come out of this marriage. Hence the women will be able to correct that indolence and vanity of mind.
But why, since some have fallen away, does he not say that much care is to be taken of them, that they may not fall into the error he has mentioned? Why has he commanded them to marry? Because marriage is not forbidden, and it is a safeguard to them. Wherefore he adds, that they “give none occasion,” or handle, “to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan.” Such widows as these then he would have refused, not meaning that there should be no younger widows, but that there should be no adulteresses, that none should be idle, busy-bodies, speaking things that they ought not, that no occasion should be given to the adversary. Had nothing of this kind taken place, he would not have forbidden them.
1Tm 5,16. “If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the Church be charged, that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.”
Observe how again he speaks of those as “widows indeed,” who are left destitute, and have no resource from any other quarter. It was better to have it so. For thus two great objects were attained. Those had an opportunity of doing good, whilst these were honorably maintained, and the Church not burdened. And he has well said, “If any believer.” For it is not fit that believing women should be maintained by unbelievers, lest they should seem to stand in need of them. And observe how persuasively he speaks; he has not said, “let them maintain them expensively,” but “let them relieve them.” “That the Church,” he says, “may relieve them that are widows indeed.” She therefore has the reward of this help also, for she that helps the Church, helps not her only, but those widows too whom the Church is thus enabled to maintain more bountifully. “I will therefore that the younger widows”—do what? live in luxury and pleasure? By no means; but—“marry, bear children, guide the house.” That he may not be supposed to encourage them to live luxuriously, he adds, that they give no occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. They ought indeed to have been superior to the things of this world, but since they are not, let them abide in them at least upright.
1502 1Tm 5,17-18. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his reward.”
The “honor” of which he here speaks is attention to them, and the supply of their necessities, as is shown by his adding, “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn” (Dt 25,4); and, “The laborer is worthy of his reward.” (Lc 10,7) So when he says, “Honor widows,” he means, “support” them in all that is necessary. Thus he says, “That it may relieve those that are widows indeed”; and again, “Honor widows that are widows indeed,” that is, who are in poverty, for the greater their poverty, the more truly are they widows. He alleges the Law, he alleges the words of Christ, both agreeing herein. For the Law says, “Thou shall not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.” See how he would have the teacher labor! For there is not, indeed there is not, any other labor such as his. But this is from the Law. But how does he quote from Christ? “The laborer is worthy of his reward.” Let us not then look only to the reward, but to the terms of the commandment. “The laborer,” he says, “is worthy of his reward.” So that if any one lives in sloth and luxury, he is unworthy of it. Unless he is as the ox treading out the corn, and bearing the yoke, in spite of heat and thorns, and ceases not till he has carried the corn into the granary, he is not worthy. Therefore to teachers should be granted a supply of their necessities without grudging, that they may not faint nor be discouraged, nor by attention to inferior things deprivethemselves of greater; that they may labor for spiritual things, paying no regard to worldly things. It was thus with the Levites; they had no worldly concerns, because the laity took care to provide for them, and their revenues were appointed by the law, as tythes, offerings of gold, first-fruits, vows, and many other things. And the law properly assigned these things to them, as seeking things present. But I shall say no more than that those who preside ought to have food and raiment, that they may not be distracted by care for these things. But what is double support? Double that of the widows, or of the deacons, or simply, liberal support. Let us not then think only of the doublemaintenance granted them, but of what is added, “Those who rule well.” And what is it to rule well? Let us hear Christ, Who says, “The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep.” (Jn 10,11) Thus to rule well is, from our concern for them, never to spare ourselves.
“Especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” Where then are those who say that there is no occasion for the word and doctrine? Whereas he says to Timothy, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them”; and, “Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine; for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1Tm 4,15-16). These are the men whom he wishes to be honored most of all, and he adds the reason, for they sustain great labor. For when one is neither watchful, nor diligent, but merely sits in his stall easy and unconcerned, whilst another wears himself out with anxiety and exertion, especially if he is ignorant of profane literature, ought not the latter to be honored above all others, who more than others gives himself up to such labors? For he is exposed to numberless tongues. One censures him, another praises him, a third mocks him, another finds fault with his memory and his composition, and it requires great strength of mind to endure all this. It is an important point, and contributes much to the edification of the Church, that the rulers of it should be apt to teach. If this be wanting, many things in the Church go to ruin. Therefore in addition to the qualifications of hospitality, moderation, and a blameless life, he enumerates this also, saying, “Apt to teach.” For why else indeed is he called a teacher? Some say that he may teach philosophy by the example of his life, so that all else is superfluous, and there is no need of verbal instruction in order to proficiency. But why then does Paul say, “especially they who labor in the word and doctrine”? For when doctrines are concerned, what life will answer the purpose? And of what word is he speaking? Not of pompous language, nor of discourse set off with external decorations, but that which possesses the mighty power of the Spirit, and abounds with wisdom and understanding. It needs not set phrases, but thoughts to give it utterance, not skill in composition, but power of mind.
1Tm 5,19. “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.”
May we then receive an accusation against a younger man, or against any one at all without witnesses? Ought we not in all cases to come to our judgments with the greatest exactness? What then does he mean? Do not so, he means, with any, but especially in the case of an elder. For he speaks of an elder not with respect to office, but to age, since the young more easily fall into sin than their elders, And it is manifest from hence that the Church, and even the whole people of Asia, had been now intrusted to Timothy, which is the reason why he discourses with him concerning elders.
1Tm 5,20. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”
1503 Do not, be says, hastily cut them off, but carefully enquire into all the circumstances, and when thou hast thoroughly informed thyself, then proceed against the offender with rigor, that others may take warning. For as it is wrong to condemn hastily and rashly, so not to punish manifest offenses is to open the way to others, and embolden them to offend.
“Rebuke,” he says, to show that it is not to be done lightly, but with severity. For thus others will be deterred. How is it then that Christ says, “Go and tell him his fault between him and thee alone, if one sin against thee.” (Mt 18,15). But Christ Himself permits him to be censured in the Church. What then? is it not a greater scandal, that one should be rebuked before all? How so? For it is a much greater scandal, that the offense should be known, and not the punishment. For as when sinners go unpunished, many commit crimes; so when they are punished, many are made better. God Himself acted in this manner. He brought forth Pharaoh, and punished him openly. And Nebuchadnezzar too, and many others, both cities and individuals, we see visited with punishment. Paul therefore would have all stand in awe of their Bishop, and sets him over all.
And because many judgments are formed upon suspicion, there ought, he says, to be witnesses, and men to convict the offender according to the ancient law. “At the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every matter be established. Against an elder receive not an accusation.” (Dt 19,15). He does not say, “do not condemn,” but “receive not an accusation,” bring him not to judgment at all. But what if the two witnesses are false? This rarely happens, and it may be discovered upon examination on the trial. For since offenses are committed in secret, we ought to be satisfied with two witnesses, and this is sufficient proof of investigation.
But what if the offenses be notorious, and yet there are no witnesses, only a strong suspicion? It has been said above that he ought “to have a good report of them which are without.” (1Tm 3,7).
Let us therefore love God with fear. The law indeed is not made for a righteous man; but since the greater part are virtuous from constraint rather than from choice, the principle of fear is of great advantage to them in eradicating their desires. Let us therefore listen to the threatenings of hell fire, that we may be benefited by the wholesome fear of it. For if God, intending to cast sinners into it, had not previously threatened them with it, many would have plunged into it. For, if with this terror agitating our souls, some sin as readily as if there were no such thing in existence, what enormities should we not have committed, if it had not been declared and threatened? So that, as I have ever said, the threatenings of hell show the care of God for us no less than the promises of heaven. For the threat coöoperates with the promise, and drives men into the kingdom by means of terror. Let us not think it a matter of cruelty, but of pity and mercy; of God’s concern and love for us. If in the days of Jonah the destruction of Nineveh had not been threatened, that destruction had not been averted. Nineveh would not have stood but for the threat, “Nineveh shall be overthrown.” (Jon 3,4). And if hell had not been threatened, we should all have fallen into hell. If the fire had not been denounced, no one would have escaped the fire. God declares that He will do that which He desires not to do, that He may do that which He desires to do. He willeth not the death of a sinner, and therefore He threatens the sinner with death, that He may not have to inflict death. And not only has He spoken the word, but He has exhibited the thing itself, that we may escape it. And lest it should be supposed to be a mere threat, He has manifested the reality of it by what He has already done on earth. Dost thou not see in the flood a symbol of hell, in that rain of all-destroying water an image of the all-devouring fire? “For as it was in the days of Noah,” He says, “they were marrying and giving in marriage” (Mt 24,38)., so is it even now. It was then predicted long before it took place, and it is now predicted four hundred years or more beforehand: but no one heeds it. It is looked upon as a mere fable, as a matter of derision; no one fears it, no one weeps or beats his breast at the thought of it. The stream of fire is boiling up, the flame is kindled, and we are laughing, taking our pleasure, and sinning without fear. No one even bears in mind That Day. No one considers that present things are passing away, and that they are but temporal, though events are every day crying out and uttering a fearful voice. The untimely deaths, the changes that take place in our lives, our own infirmities and diseases, fail to instruct us. And not only in our own bodies are these changes visible, but in the elements themselves. Every day in our different ages we experience a kind of death, and in every case instability is the characteristic of things we see. Neither winter, nor summer, nor spring, nor autumn, is permanent; all are running, flying, and flowing past. Why should I speak of fading flowers, of dignities, of kings that are to-day, and to-morrow cease to be, of rich men, of magnificent houses, of night and day, of the sun and the moon? for the moon wanes, and the sun is sometimes eclipsed, and often darkened with clouds? Of things visible, in short, is there anything that endures for ever? Nothing! No, nor anything in us but the soul, and that we neglect. Of things subject to change we take abundant care, as if they were permanent: but that which is to endure for ever we neglect, as if it were soon to pass away. Some one is enabled to perform mighty actions, but they shall last till to-morrow, and then he perishes, as we see in the instances of those who have had yet greater power, and are now to be seen no more. Life is a dream, and a scene; and as on the stage when the scene is shifted the various pageants disappear, and as dreams flit away when the sunbeams rise, so here when the end comes, whether the universal or that of each one, all is dissolved and vanishes away. The tree that you have planted remains, and the house that you have built, it too stands on. But the planter and the builder go away, and perish. Yet these things happen without our regarding it, and we live on in luxury and pleasure, and are ever furnishing ourselves with such things, as if we were immortal.
1504 Hear what Solomon says, who knew the present world by actual experience. “I builded me houses, I planted me vineyards, I made me gardens, and orchards and pools of water. I gathered me also silver and gold. I gat myself men-singers, and women-singers, and flocks, and herds.” (Qo 2,4-5) . There was no one who lived in greater luxury, or higher glory. There was no one so wise or so powerful, no one who saw all things so succeeding to his heart’s desire. What then? He had no enjoyment from all these things. What after all does he say of it himself? “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” (Qo 12,8). Vanity not simply but superlatively. Let us believe him, and lay hold on that in which there is no vanity, in which there is truth; and what is based upon a solid rock, where there is no old age, nor decline, but all things bloom and flourish, without decay, or waxing old, or approaching dissolution. Let us, I beseech you, love God with genuine affection, not from fear of hell, but from desire of the kingdom. For what is comparable to seeing Christ? Surely nothing! What to the enjoyment of those good things? Surely nothing! Well may there be nothing; for “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (1Co 2,9). Let us be anxious to obtain those things, and let us despise all these. Are we not continually complaining that human life is nothing? Why art thou solicitous for what is nothing? Why dost thou sustain such toils, for what is nothing? Thou seest splendid houses, does the sight of them delude thee? Look up to heaven. Raise thy view from pillars of stone to that beautiful fabric, compared with which the others are as the works of ants and pismires. Learn philosophy from that spectacle, ascend to heavenly things, and look thence upon our splendid buildings, and see that they are nothing, the mere toys of little children. Seest thou not how much finer, how much lighter, how much purer, how much more translucent, is the air the higher thou ascendest? There have they that do aims their mansions and their tabernacles. These that are here are dissolved at the resurrection, or rather before the resurrection destroyed by the stroke of time. Nay often in their most flourishing state and period an earthquake overthrows, or fire entirely ruins them. For not only the bodies of men, but their very buildings are liable to untimely deaths. Nay, sometimes things decayed by time stand firm under the shock of an earthquake, whilst glittering edifices, firmly fixed, and newly constructed, are struck but by lightning and perish. And this, I believe, is the interposition of God, that we may not take pride in our buildings.
Would you again have another ground for cheerfulness? Go to the public buildings, in which you share equally with others. For the most magnificent private houses, after all, are less splendid than the public edifices. There you may remain, as long as you please. They belong to you as much as to others, since they are common to you with others; they are common, and not private. But those, you say, delight you not. They delight you not, partly because you are familiar with them, and partly from your covetousness. So the pleasantness is not in the beauty, but in the appropriating! So the pleasure is in greediness, and in the wish to make every man’s goods your own! How long are we to be nailed to these things? How long are we to be fastened to the earth, and grovel, like worms, in the dirt? God hath given us a body of earth, that we might carry it with us up to heaven, not that we should draw our soul down with it to earth. Earthy it is, but if we please, it may be heavenly. See how highly God has honored us, in committing to us so excellent a frame. I made heaven and earth, He says, and to you I give the power of creation. Make your earth heaven. For it is in thy power. “I am He that maketh and transformeth all things” (Am 5,8), Sept)., saith God of Himself. And He hath given to men a similar power; as a painter, being an affectionate father, teaches his own art to his son. I formed thy body beautiful, he says, but I give thee the power of forming something better. Make thy soul beautiful. I said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, and every fruitful tree.” (Gn 1,11). Do thou also say, Let this earth bring forth its proper fruit, and what thou willest to produce will be produced. “I make the summer and the cloud. I create the lightning and the wind.” (Am 4,13 Ps 74,17). I formed the dragon, that is, the devil, to make sport with him. (Ps 104,26). Nor have I grudged thee the like power. Thou, if thou wilt, canst sport with him, and bind him as thou wouldest a sparrow. I make the sun to rise upon the evil and the good: do thou imitate Me, by imparting of that is thine to the good and the evil. When mocked I bear with it, and do good to those who mock Me: do thou imitate Me, as thou canst. I do good, not to be requited; do thou imitate Me, and do good, not to be repaid. I have lighted luminaries in the heavens. Do thou light others brighter than these, for thou canst, by enlightening those that are in error. For to know Me is a greater benefit than to behold the sun. Thou canst not create a man, but thou canst make him just and acceptable to God. I formed his substance, do thou beautify his will. See how I love thee, and have given thee the power in the greater things.
Beloved, see how we are honored! yet some are so unreasonable and so ungrateful as to say, “Why are we endowed with free will?” But how in all the particulars which we have mentioned could we have imitated God, if there had been no free will? I rule Angels, He says, and so dost thou, through Him who is the First-fruits. (1Co 15,23). I sit on a royal throne, and thou art seated with Me in Him who is the First-fruits. As it is said, “He hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ep 2,6). Through Him who is the First-fruits, Cherubim and Seraphim adore thee, with all the heavenly host, principalities and powers, thrones and dominions. Disparage not thy body, to which such high honors appertain, that the unbodied Powers tremble at it.
But what shall I say? It is not in this way only that I have shown My love to thee, but by what I have suffered. For thee I was spit upon, I was scourged. I emptied myself of glory, I left My Father and came to thee, who dost hate Me, and turn from Me, and art loath to hear My Name. I pursued thee, I ran after thee, that I might overtake thee. I united and joined thee to myself, “eat Me, drink Me,” I said. Above I hold thee, and below I embrace thee. Is it not enough for thee that I have thy First-fruits above? Doth not this satisfy thy affection? I descended below: I not only am mingled with thee I am entwined in thee. I am masticated, broken into minute particles, that the interspersion, and commixture, and union may be more complete. Things united remain yet in their own limits, but I am interwoven with thee. I would have no more any division between us. I will that we both be one.
Therefore knowing these things and remembering His abundant care for us, let us do all things which may prove us not unworthy of His great gift, which God grant that we may all obtain, through the grace and lovingkindness of Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom, &c.
1600 that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. Lay hands hastily on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure. Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and three often infirmities.”
1601 Having spoken of Bishops and Deacons, of men, and women, of widows and elders, and of all others, and having shown how great was the authority of a Bishop, now he was speaking of judgment, he has added, “I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.” Thus fearfully he charges him. For though Timothy was his beloved son, he did not therefore stand in awe of him. For as he was not ashamed to say of himself, “Lest by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away” (1Co 9,27); much less would he be afraid or ashamed in the case of Timothy. He called the Father and the Son to witness. But wherefore the elect Angels? From great moderation, as Moses said, “I call heaven and earth to witness” (Dt 4,26); and again, “Hear ye, O mountains, and strong foundations of the earth.” (Mi 6,2). He calls the Father and the Son to witness what he has said, making his appeal to Them against that future Day, that if anything should be done that ought not to be done, he was clear from the guilt of it.
“That thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.” That is, that thou deal impartially and equally between those who are upon trial and are to be judged by thee, that no one may pre-occupy thy mind, or gain thee over to his side beforehand.
But who are the elect Angels? It is because there are some not elect. As Jacob calls to witness God and the heap (Gn 31,45), so we often take at once superior and inferior persons to witness; so great a thing is testimony. As if he had said, I call to witness God and His Son and His servants, that I have charged thee: so before them I charge thee. He impresses Timothy with fear; after which he adds, what was most vital, and bears most on the maintenance of the Church, the matter of Ordinations. “Lay hands,” he says, “suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins.” What is “suddenly”? Not upon a first, nor a second, nor a third trial, but after frequent and strict examination and circumspection. For it is an affair of no common peril. For thou wilt be responsible for the sins committed by him, as well his past as his future sins, because thou hast delegated to him this power. For if thou overlook the past unduly, thou art answerable for the future also, as being the cause of them, by placing him in that station, and of the past too, for not leaving him to mourn over them, and to be in compunction. For as thou art a partaker of his good actions, so art thou of his sins.
“Keep thyself pure.” This he says with reference to chastity.
“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thy often infirmities.” If one who had practiced fasting to such an extent, and used only water, so long that he had brought on “infirmities” and “frequent infirmities,” is thus commanded to be chaste, and does not refuse the admonition, much less ought we to be offended when we receive an admonitionfrom any one. But why did not Paul restore strength to his stomach? Not because he could not—for he whose garment had raised the dead was clearly able to do this too,—but because he had a design of importance in withholding such aid. What then was his purpose? That even now, if we see great and virtuous men afflicted with infirmities, we may not be offended, for this was a profitable visitation. If indeed to Paul himself a “messenger of Satan” was sent that he should not be “exalted above measure” (2Co 12,11), much more might it be so with Timothy. For the miracles he wrought were enough to have rendered him arrogant. For this reason he is left to be subject to the rules of medicine, that he may be humbled, and others may not be offended, but may learn that they who performed such excellent actions were men of the same nature as themselves. In other respects also Timothy seems to have been subject to disease, which is implied by that expression, “Thy often infirmities,” as well of other parts as of the stomach. He does not however allow him to indulge freely in wine, but as much as was for health and not for luxury).
1Tm 5,24. “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some they follow after.”
In speaking of ordination, he had said, “Be not partaker of other men’s sins.” But what, he might say, if I be ignorant of them? Why, “some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before them to judgment, and some they follow after.” Some men’s, he means, are manifest, because they, go before, whilst others’ are unknown, because they follow after.
1Tm 5,25. “Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand, and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.”
1Tm 6,1. “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their masters worthy of all honor, that the Name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed.”
Let them count them “worthy of all honor,” he says; for do not suppose, because thou art a believer, that thou art therefore a free man: since thy freedom is to serve the more faithfully. For if the unbeliever sees slaves conducting themselves insolently on account of their faith, he will blaspheme, as if the Doctrine produced insubordination. But when he sees them obedient, he will be more inclined to believe, and will the rather attend to our words. But God, and the Gospel we preach, will be blasphemed, if they are disobedient. But what if their own master be an unbeliever? Even in that case they ought to submit, for God’s Name’s sake.
1Tm 6,2. “And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved partakers of the benefit.”
1602 As though he had said, If ye are thought worthy of so great a benefit, as to have your masters for your brethren, on this account ye ought more especially to submit.
“Going before to judgment.” This he had said, implying that of evil actions here some are concealed, and some are not; but there neither the good nor the bad can be concealed. And what is that going before to judgment? When one commits offenses that already condemn him, or when he is incorrigible, and when one thinks to set him right and cannot succeed. What then? What is the use of mentioning this? Because if here any escape detection, they will not hereafter. There all things are laid open; and this is the greatest consolation to those who do well.
Then because he had said, “Do nothing by partiality,” as if under the necessity of interpreting it, he adds, “As many servants as are under the yoke.” But you will say, What has a Bishop to do with this? Much surely, for it is his office to exhort and to teach these too. And here he makes excellent regulations with respect to them. For we see him everywhere commanding the servants rather than their masters, showing them the ways of submission, and treating them with great regard. He exhorts them therefore to submit with great meekness. But the masters he recommends to forbear the use of terror. “Forbearing threatening” (Ep 6,9), he says. And why does he thus command? In the case of unbelievers, naturally, because it would have been unreasonable to address those who would pay no heed to him; but where believers were concerned, what was his reason? Because masters contribute greater benefits to their servants, than servants to their masters. For the former furnish the money to purchase for them sufficient food and clothing; and bestow much care upon them in other respects, so that the masters pay them the larger service, which is here intimated, when he says, “they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit.” They suffer much toil and trouble for your repose, ought they not in return to receive much honor from their servants?
Moral. But if he exhorts servants to render such implicit obedience, consider what ought to be our disposition towards our Master, who brought us into existence out of nothing, and who feeds and clothes us. If in no other way then, let us render Him service at least as our servants render it to us. Do not they order their whole lives to afford rest to their masters, and is it not their work and their life to take care of their concerns? Are they not all day long engaged in their masters’ Work, and only a small portion of the evening in their own? But we, on the contrary, are ever engaged in our own affairs, in our Master’s hardly at all, and that too, though He needs not our services, as masters need those of their servants, but those very acts redound to our own benefit. In their case the master is benefited by the ministry of the servant, but in ours the ministry of the servant profits not the Master, but is beneficial on the other hand to the servant. As the Psalmist says, “My goods are nothing unto Thee.” (Ps 16,2). For say, what advantage is it to God, that I am just, or what injury, that I am unjust? Is not His nature incorruptible, incapable of injury, superior to all suffering? Servants having nothing of their own, all is their masters’, however rich they may be. But we have many things of our own.
And it is not merely so great honor, that we enjoy from the King of the universe. What master ever gave his own son for his servant? No one, but all would rather choose to give their servants for their sons. Here on the contrary, “He spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all,” for His enemies who hated Him. Servants, though very hard service is exacted of them, are not impatient; at least, not the well-disposed. But how many times do we utter discontent? The master promises to his servants nothing like what God promises to us; but what? Freedom here, which is often worse than bondage; for it is often embittered by famine beyond slavery itself. Yet this is their greatest boon. But with God there is nothing temporal, nothing mortal; but what? wouldest thou learn? Listen then, He says, “Henceforth I call you not servants. Ye are my friends.” (Jn 15,13-14).
Beloved, let us be ashamed, let us fear. Let us only serve our Master, as our servants serve us. Rather not even the smallest portion of service do we render! Necessity makes them philosophers. They have only food and lodging; but we, possessing much and expecting more, insult our Benefactor with our luxury. If from nothing else, from them at least let us learn the rules of philosophy. The Scripture is wont to send men not even to servants, but to irrational creatures, as when it bids us imitate the bee and the ant. But I advise you but to imitate servants: only so much as they do from fear of their masters, let us do from the fear of God; for I cannot find that you do even this. They receive many insults from fear of us, and endure them in silence with the patience of philosophers. Justly or unjustly they are exposed to our violence, and they do not resist, but entreat us, though often they have done nothing wrong. They are contented to receive no more and often less than they need; with straw for their bed, and only bread for their food, they do not complain or murmur at their hard living, but through fear of us are restrained from impatience. When they are intrusted with money, they restore it all. For I am not speaking of the worthless, but of the moderately good. If we threaten them, they are at once awed.
(Is not this philosophy? For say not they are under necessity, when thou too art under a necessity in the fear of hell. And yet dost thou not learn wisdom, nor render to God as much honor, as thou receivest from thy servants. Of thy servants each has the apartment assigned to him by thy rules, and he does not invade that of his neighbor, nor do any injury from a desire of more than he has. This forbearance the fear of their master enforces among domestics, and seldom will you see a servant robbing or injuring a fellow-servant. But among free men it is quite the reverse. We bite and devour one another. We fear not our Master: we rob and plunder our fellow-servants, we strike them in His very sight. This the servant will not do; if he strikes, it is not when his master sees him; if he reviles, it is not when his master hears him. But we dare do anything, though God sees and hears it all.
The fear of their master is ever before their eyes, the fear of our Master never before ours. Hence the subversion of all order, hence all is confusion and destruction. And we never take into consideration the offenses we have committed, but if our servants do amiss, we call them to a rigorous account for everything, even to the least misdemeanor. I say not this to make servants remiss, but to chide our supineness, to rouse us from our sloth, that we may serve our God with as much zeal as servants do their master; our Maker, as faithfully as our fellow-creatures serve us, from whom they have received no such gift. For they too are free by nature. To them also it was said, “Let them have dominion over the fishes.” (Gn 1,26). For this slavery is not from nature: it is the result of some particular cause, or circumstances. Yet, notwithstanding, they pay us great honor; and we with great strictness exact services from them, whilst to God we hardly render the smallest portion, though the advantage of it would redound to ourselves. For the more zealously we serve God, the greater gainers we shall be. Let us not then deprive ourselves of such important benefits. For God is self-sufficient, and wants nothing; the recompense and the advantage reverts altogether to us. Let us therefore, I beseech you, be so affected, as serving not God but ourselves, and with fear and trembling let us serve Him, that we may obtain the promised blessings, through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom, &c.
Chrysostom 1 Tm 1500