Chrysostom hom. on Mt 62
62 Mt 19,1
“And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, He departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Jud’a beyond Jordan.”
Having constantly left Jud’a on account of the envy of those men, now He frequents it from this time forth, because the passion was to be nigh at hand; He goeth not up, however, unto Jerusalem for a while, but “into the coasts of Jud’a.”
“And,” when He was come, “great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them.”1
For neither in the teaching by words doth He continue always, nor in the wonderful working of signs, but He doeth now one now the other, variously working the salvation of them that were waiting upon Him and following Him, so as by the miracles to appear, in what He said, a Teacher worthy of belief, and by the teaching of His word to increase the profit from the miracles; and this was to lead them by the hand to the knowledge of God.
But do thou mark, I pray thee, this too, how the disciples pass over whole multitudes with one word, not declaring by name each of them that are healed. For they said not, that such a one, and such another, but that many, teaching us to be unostentatious. But Christ healed, benefiting both them, and by them many others. For the healing of these men’s infirmity was to others a foundation for the knowledge of God.
But not so to the Pharisees, but even for this self-same thing they become more fierce, and come unto Him tempting Him. For because they could not lay hold of the works that were doing, they propose to Him questions. For they “came unto Him, and tempting Him said, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”2
O folly! They thought to silence Him by their questions, although they had already received certain proof of this power in Him. When at least they argued much about the Sabbath, when they said, “He blasphemeth,” when they said, “He hath a devil,” when they found fault with His disciples as they were walking in the corn fields, when they argued about unwashen hands, on every occasion having sewed fast their mouths, and shut up their shameless tongue, He thus sent them away. Nevertheless, not even so do they keep off from Him. For such is wickedness, such is envy, shameless and bold; though it be put to silence ten thousand times, ten thousand times doth it assault again.
But mark thou, I pray thee, their craft also from the form of their question. For neither did they say unto Him, Thou didst command not to put away a wife, for indeed He had already discoursed about this law; but nevertheless they made no mention of those words; but took occasion from hence, and thinking to make their snare the greater, and being minded to drive Him to a necessity of contradicting the law, they say not, why didst Thou enact this or that? but as though nothing had been said, they ask, “Is it lawful expecting that He had forgotten having said it; and being ready if on the one hand He said, “It is lawful to put away,” to bring against Him the things He Himself had spoken, and to say, How then didst Thou affirm the contrary? but if the same things now again as before, to bring against Him the words of Moses.
What then said He? He said not,” tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?” although afterwards He saith this, but here He speaks not thus. Why can this be? In order that together with His power He might show forth His gentleness also. For He doth neither always keep silence, lest they should suppose they are hidden; nor doth He always reprove, in order that He may instruct us to bear all things with gentleness.
How then cloth He answer them? “Have ye not read, that He which made them at3 the beginning, made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be4 one flesh? So that they are no more twain but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”5
1 Mt 19,2.
2 Mt 19,3.
3 [R. V. “from.”]
See a teacher’s wisdom. I mean, that being asked, Is it lawful? He did not at once say, It is not lawful, lest they should be disturbed and put in disorder, but before the decision by His argument He rendered this manifest, showing that it is itself too the commandment of His Father, and that not in opposition to Moses did He enjoin these things, but in full agreement with him.
But mark Him arguing strongly not from the creation only, but also from His command. For He said not, that He made one man and one woman only, but that He also gave this command that the one man should be joined to the one woman. But if it had been His will that he should put this one away, and bring in another, when He had made one man, He would have formed many Women.
But now both by the manner of the creation, and by the manner of lawgiving, He showed that one man must dwell with one woman continually, and never break off from her.
And see how He saith, “He which made them at the beginning, made them male and female,” that is, from one root they sprung. and into one body came they together, “for the twain shall be one flesh.”
After this, to make it a fearful thing to find fault with this lawgiving, and to confirm the law, He said not, “Sever not therefore, nor put asunder,” but, “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
But if thou put forward Moses, I tell thee of Moses’ Lord, and together with this, I rely upon the time also. For God at the beginning made them male and female; and this law is older (though it seem to have been now introduced by me), and with much earnestness established. For not merely did He bring the woman to the man, but also commanded to leave father and mother. And neither did He make it a law for him merely to come to the woman, but also “to cleave to her,” by the form of the language intimating that they might not be severed. And not even with this was He satisfied, but sought also for another greater union, “for the twain,” He saith, “shall be one flesh.”
Then after He had recited the ancient law, which was brought in both by deeds and by words, and shown it to be worthy of respect because of the giver, with authority after that He Himself too interprets and gives the law, saying, “So that they are no more twain, but one flesh.” Like then as to sever flesh is a horrible thing,6 so also to divorce a wife is unlawful. And He stayed not at this, but brought in God also by saying, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder,” showing that the act was both against nature, and against law; against nature, because one flesh is dissevered; against law, because that when God hath joined and commanded it not to be divided, ye conspire to do this.
2. What then ought they to have done after this? Ought they not to have held their peace, and to have commended the saying? ought they not to have marvelled at His wisdom? ought they not to have stood amazed at His accordance with the Father? But none of these things do they, but as though they were contending for the law, they say, “How then did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?”7 And yet they ought not now to have brought this forward, but rather He to them; but nevertheless He doth not take advantage of them, nor doth He say to them, “I am not now bound by this,” but He solves this too.
And indeed if He had been an alien from the old covenant, He would not have striven for Moses, neither would He haste argued positively from the things done once for all at the beginning; He would not have studied to show that His own precepts agreed with those of old.
And indeed Moses had given many other commandments besides, both those about meats, and those about the Sabbath; wherefore then do they nowhere bring him forward, as here? From a wish to enlist the multitude of the husbands against him. For this was considered a thing indifferent with the Jews, and all used to do so much as this. Accordingly it was for this reason that when so many things had been said on the mount, they remembered this commandment only now.
Nevertheless, unspeakable wisdom maketh a defense even for these things, and saith. “Moses for the hardness of your hearts” thus made the law. And not even him doth He suffer to remain under accusation, forasmuch as He had Himself given him the law; but delivers him from the charge, and turns the whole upon their head, as everywhere He doth.
For again when they were blaming His disciples for plucking the ears of corn, He shows themselves to be guilty; and when they were laying a trangression to their charge as to their not washing their hands, He shows themselves to be the transgressors, and touching the Sabbath also: both everywhere, and here in like manner.
Then because the saying was hard to bear, and brought on them much blame, He quickly directs back His discourse to that ancient law, saying as He had said before also, “But in the beginning it was not so,” that is, God by His acts at the beginning ordained the contrary. For in order that they may not say, Whence is it manifest, that “for our hardness Moses said this?” hereby again He stoppeth their mouths. For if this were the primary law, and for our good, that other would not have been given at the beginning; God in creating would not have so created, He would not have said such things.
“But I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife except it be for fornication, and marry another, committeth adultery.”8 For since he had stopped their mouths, He then gives the law with His own authority, like as touching the meats, like as touching the Sabbath.
For with regard to the meats likewise, when He had overcome them, then, and not till then, He declared unto the multitude, that, “Not that which goeth in defileth the man; “9 and with regard to the Sabbath, when He had stopped their mouths, He saith, “Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath day;”10 and here this self-same thing.
But what took place there, this happened here also. For as there, when the Jews had been put to silence the disciples were troubled, and came unto Him with Peter and said, “Declare unto us this parable;”11 even so now also they were troubled and said, “If the case of the man be so, it is good not to marry.”12
For now they understood the saying more than before. Therefore then indeed they held their peace, but now when there hath been gainsaying, and answering, and question, and learning by reply, and the law appeared more clear, they ask Him. And openly to contradict they do not dare, but they bring forward what seemed to be a grievous and galling result of it, saying, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” For indeed it seemed to be a very hard thing to have a wife full of every bad quality, and to endure a wild beast perpetually shut up with one in the house. And that thou mayest learn that this greatly troubled them, Mark said,13 to show it, that they spake to Him privately.
3. But what is, “If such be the case of a man with his wife?” That is, if to this end he is joined with her, that they should be one, or, on the other hand, if the man shall get to himself blame for these things, and always transgresses by putting away, it were easier to fight against natural desire and against one’s self, than against a wicked woman.
What then saith Christ? He said not, “yea, it is easier, and so do,” lest they should suppose that the thing is a law; but He subjoined, “Not all men receive it, but they to whom it is given,”14 raising the thing, and showing that it is great, and in this way drawing them on, and urging them.
But see herein a contradiction. For He indeed saith this is a great thing; but they, that it is easier. For it was meet that both these things should be done, and that it should be at once acknowledged a great thing by Him, that it might render them more forward, and by the things said by themselves it should be shown to be easier, that on this ground too they might the rather choose virginity and continence. For since to speak of virginity seemed to be grievous, by the constraint of this law He drove them to this desire. Then to show the possibility of it, He saith, “There are some eunuchs, who were so born from their mother’s womb, there are some eunuchs which were made eunuchs of men, and there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven’s sake,”15 by these words secretly leading them to choose the thing, and establishing the possibility of this virtue, and all but saying, Consider if thou weft in such case by nature, or hadst endured this selfsame thing at the hands of those who inflict such wanton injuries, what wouldest thou have done, being deprived indeed of the enjoyment, yet not having a reward? Thank God therefore now, for that with rewards and crowns thou undergoest this, which those men endure without crowns; or rather not ever this, but what is much lighter, being supported both by hope, and by the consciousness of the good work, and not having the desire so raging like waves within thee.
For the excision of a member is not able to quell such waves, and to make a calm, like the curb of reason; or rather, reason only can do this.
For this intent therefore He brought in those others, even that He might encourage these, since if this was not what He was establishing, what means His saying concerning the other eunuchs? But when He saith, that they made themselves eunuchs, He means not the excision of the members, far from it, but the putting away of wicked thoughts. Since the man who hath mutilated himself, in fact, is subject even to a curse, as Paul saith, “I would they were even cut off16 which trouble you.”17 And very reasonably. For such a one is venturing on the deeds of murderers. and giving occasion to them that slander God’s creation. and opens the mouths of the Manich’ans, and is guilty of the same unlawful acts as they that mutilate themselves amongst the Greeks. For to cut off our members hath been from the beginning a work of demoniacal agency, and satanic device, that they may bring up a bad report upon the work of God, treat they may mar this living creature, that imputing all not to the choice, but to the nature of our members, the more part of them may sin in security. as being irresponsible; and doubly harm this living creature, both by mutilating the members, and by impeding the forwardness of the free choice in behalf of good deeds.
These are the ordinances of the devil, bringing in, besides the things which we have mentioned, another wicked doctrine also, and making way beforehand for the arguments concerning destiny and necessity even from hence, and everywhere marring the freedom given to us of God. and persuading us that evil deeds are of nature, and hence secretly implanting many other wicked doctrines, although not openly. For such are the devil’s poisons.
Therefore I beseech you to flee from such lawlessness. For together with the things I have mentioned. neither doth the force of lust become milder hereby, but even more fierce. For from another origin hath the seed that is in us its sources, and from another cause do its waves swell. And some say from the brain, some from the loins, this violent impulse hath its birth; but I should say from nothing else than from an ungoverned will and a neglected mind: if this be temperate, there is no evil result from the motions of nature.
Having spoken then of the eunuchs that are eunuchs for nought and fruitlessly, unless with the mind they too practise temperance, and of those that are virgins for Heaven’s sake, He proceeds again to say, “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it,” at once making them more earnest by showing that the good work is exceeding in greatness, and not suffering the thing to be shut up in the compulsion of a law, because of His unspeakable gentleness. And this He said, when He showed it to be most possible, in order that the emulation of the free choice might be greater.
And if it is of free choice, one may say, how doth He say, at the beginning, “All men do not receive it, but they to whom it is given?” That thou mightest learn that the conflict is great, not that thou shouldest suspect any compulsory allotments. For it is given to those, even to the willing.
But He spake thus to show that much influence from above is needed by him who entereth these lists, whereof He that is willing shall surely partake. For it is customary for Him to use this form of speech when the good work done is great, as when He saith, “To you it is given to know the mysteries.”
And that this is true, is manifest even from the present instance. For if it be of the gift from above only, and they that live as virgins contribute nothing themselves, for nought did He promise them the kingdom of Heaven, and distinguish them from the other eunuchs.
But mark thou, I pray, how from some men’s wicked doings, other men gain. I mean, that the Jews went away having learnt nothing, for neither did they ask with the intent of learning, but the disciples gained even from hence.
4. “Then were there brought unto Him little children, that He should put His hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But He said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven. And He laid His hands on them, and departed thence.”18
And wherefore did the disciples repel the little children? For dignity. What then doth He? Teaching them to be lowly, and to trample under foot worldly pride, He doth receive them, and takes them in His arms, and to such as them promises the kingdom; which kind of thing He said before also.19
Let us also then, if we would be inheritors of the Heavens, possess ourselves of this virtue with much diligence. For this is the limit of true wisdom; to be simple with understanding; this is angelic life; yes, for the soul of a little child is pure from all the passions. Towards them who have vexed him he bears no resentment, but goes to them as to friends, as if nothing had been done; and how much soever he be beaten by his mother; after her he seeks, and her doth he prefer to all. Though thou show him the queen with a diadem, he prefers her not to his mother clad in rags, but would choose rather to see her in these, than the queen in splendor. For he useth to distinguish what pertains to him and what is strange to him, not by its poverty and wealth, but by friendship. And nothing more than necessary things doth he seek, but just to be satisfied from the breast, and then he leaves sucking. The young child is not grieved at what we are grieved, as at loss of money and such things as that, and he doth not rejoice again at what we rejoice, namely, at these temporal things, he is not eager about the beauty of persons.
Therefore He said, “of such is the kingdom of Heaven,” that by choice we should practise these things, which young children have by nature. For since the Pharisees from nothing rise so much as out of craft and pride did what they did, therefore on every hand He charges the disciples to be single hearted, both darkly hinting at those men, and instructing these. For nothing so much lifts up unto haughtiness, as power and precedence. Forasmuch then as the disciples were to enjoy great honors throughout the whole world, He preoccupies their mind, not suffering them to feel anything after the manner of men, neither to demand honors from the multitude, nor to have men dear the way20 before them.
For though these seem to be little things, yet are they a cause of great evils. The Pharisees at least being thus trained were carried on into the very summit of evil, seeking after the salutations, the first seats, the middle places,21 for from these they were cast upon the shoal of their mad desire of glory, then from thence upon impiety. So therefore those men went away having drawn upon themselves a curse by their tempting, but he little children a blessing, as being freed from all these.
Let us then also be like the little children, and “in malice be we babes.”22 For it cannot be, it cannot be for one otherwise to see Heaven, but the crafty and wicked must needs surely be cast into hell.
4 [R. V., “become.”]
7 Mt 19,7. [“How” is substituted for “why.”]
8 [The citation agrees with the briefer reading, accepted by Tischendorf; comp. R. V. margin.—R.]
9 Mt 15,11.
10 Mt 12,12.
11 Mt 15,15.
12 Mt 19,10. [Compare the more exact citation which follows. —R.]
13 Mc 10,10.
14 Mt 19,11.
15 Mt 19,12.
16 ajpokovyontai, which may mean this). [R. V. margin, “mutilate themselves.”]
17 Ga 5,12. [Whatever be the meaning of the verb in Galatians, there can be no question that the use here made of the passage is forced.—R.]
19 Mt 18,3-4.
22 1Co 14,20.
5. And before hell too, we shall here suffer the utmost ills. “For if thou be evil,” it is said, “thou alone shalt endure the evil; but if good, it is for thyself and for thy neighbor.”23 Mark, at any rate, how this took place in the former instances also. For neither was anything more wicked than Saul, nor more simple and single-hearted than David. Which therefore was the stronger? Did not David get him twice into his hands, and having the power to slay him, forebore? Had he not him shut up as in a net and prison, and spared him? And this when both others were urging him, and when he himself was able to accuse him of countless charges; but nevertheless he suffered him to go away safe. And yet the other was pursuing him with all his army, but he was, with a few desperate fugitives, wandering and changing from place to place; nevertheless the fugitive had the advantage of the king, forasmuch as the one came to the conflict with simplicity, the other with wickedness.
For what could be more wicked than that man, who when he was leading his armies, and bringing all his wars to a successful issue, and undergoing the labors of the victory and the trophies, but bringing the crowns to him, assayed to slay him?
6. Such is the nature of envy, it is ever plotting against its own honors, and wasting him that hath it, and encompassing him with countless calamities. And that miserable man, for instance, until David departed, burst not forth into that piteous cry, bewailing himself and saying, “I am sore distressed, and the Philistines make war against me, and the Lord is departed from me.”24 not in war, but was both in safety and in glory; for indeed unto the king passed the glory of the captain. For neither was the man disposed to usurpation, nor did he assay to depose the other from his throne, but for him did he achieve all things, and was earnestly attached to him, and this is evident even from what followed afterwards. For when indeed he was set under him, any one of them who do not search carefully might perhaps suppose these things to be by the usual custom of a subject; but after he had withdrawn himself out of Saul’s kingdom, what then was there to restrain him, and to him even to slay? Had not the other beet evil towards him once, twice, and often? Was it not after having received benefits from him Was it not having nothing whereof to accuse him? Was not Saul’s kingdom and safety danger and insecurity to himself? must he not needs wander and be a fugitive, and be in trembling for fear of the utmost ills, while the other is alive, and reigning? Nevertheless none of these things constrained him to stain his sword with blood, but when he saw him asleep, and bound, and alone, and in the midst of his own men, and had touched his head, and when there were many rousing him those who were urging him on, and refrained from the murder, and sent him away both safe and well; and as though he had been rather a body guard of his, and a shield-bearer, not an enemy, so did he chide the host for their treachery towards the king.25
What could be equal to this soul? What to that mildness? For this it is possible to see even by the things that have been mentioned but much more by what are done now. For when we have considered our vileness, then we shall know more perfectly the virtue of those saints. Wherefore I entreat you to hasten towards the emulation of them.
For indeed if thou lovest glory, and for this cause art plotting against thy neighbor, then shalt thou enjoy it more largely, when having spurned it, thou wilt abstain from the plotting. For like as to become rich26 is contrary to covetousness, so is the loving of glory to the obtaining of glory. And if ye be minded, let us inquire into each. For since we have no fear of hell, nor much regard for the kingdom, come and even from the things present let us lead you on.
For who are they that are ridiculous? Tell me. Is it not they that are doing anything for the sake of glory from the multitude? And who are the objects of praise? Is it not they who spurn the praise of the multitude? Therefore if the love of vainglory be matter of reproach, and it cannot be concealed that the vainglorious man loves it, he will assuredly be an object of reproach, and the love of glory is become to him a cause of dishonor. And not in this respect only doth he disgrace himself, but also in that he is compelled to do many things shameful, and teeming with the utmost disgrace. And like as with respect to their gains men are wont to suffer harm more than anything from the disease of covetousness (they become at least the subjects of many tricks, and of small gains make great losses, wherefore this saying hath prevailed even to be a proverb); and as to the voluptuous man likewise, his passion becomes a hindrance to the enjoyment of his pleasure. These at least that are exceedingly given up thereto, and are the slaves of women these above all do women carry about as servants, and will never vouchsafe to treat them as men, buffeting, spurning them, leading, and taking them about everywhere, and giving themselves airs, and in everything merely giving them orders.
Even so also than him that is arrogant and mad about glory, and accounts himself to be high, nothing is more base and dishonored. For the race of man is fond of contention, and against nothing else doth it set itself so much, as against a boaster, and a contemptuous man, and a slave of glory.
And he himself too, in order to maintain the fashion of his pride, exhibits the conduct of a slave to the common sort, flattering, courting them, serving a servitude more grievous than that of one bought for money.
Knowing then all these things, let us lay down these passions, that we may not both pay a penalty here, and there be punished without end. Let us become lovers of virtue. For so both before reaching the kingdom we shall reap the greatest benefits here, and when we are departed thither we shall partake of the eternal blessings; unto which God grant we may all attain by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might world without end. Amen.
23 Pr 9,12, LXX).
24 1S 28,15.
25 1S 26,16.
26 Mss. “not to make money,” and presently, “not to love glory;” but Savile’s reading is rightly adopted by Mr. Field, with the Latin Translator).
63 Mt 19,16
“And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, by doing what, shall I inherit eternal life?”
Some indeed accuse this young man, as one dissembling and ill-minded, and coming with a temptation to Jesus, but I, though I would not say he was not fond of money, and under subjection to his wealth, since Christ in fact convicted him of being such a character, yet a dissembler I would by no means call him, both because it is not safe to venture on things uncertain, and especially in blame, and because Mark hath taken away this suspicion; for he saith, that “having come running unto Him, and kneeling to Him, he besought Him,” and that” Jesus beheld him, and loved him.”1
But great is the tyranny of wealth, and it is manifest hence; I mean, that though we be virtuous as to the rest, this ruins all besides. With reason hath Paul also affirmed it to be the root of all evils in general. “For the love of money is the root of all evils,”2 he saith.
Wherefore then doth Christ thus reply to him, saying, “There is none good?”3 Because He came unto Him as a mere man, and one of the common sort, and a Jewish teacher; for this cause then as a man He discourses with him. And indeed in many instances He replies to the secret thoughts of them that come unto Him; as when He saith, “We worship we know what;”4 and, “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.”5 When therefore He saith, “There is none good;” not as putting Himself out from being good doth He say this, far from it; for he said not, “Why dost thou call me good? I am not good;” but, “there is none good,” that is, none amongst men.
And when He saith this self-same thing, He saith it not as depriving even men of goodness, but in contradistinction to the goodness of God. Wherefore also He added, “But one, that is, God;” and He said not, “but my Father” that thou mightest learn that He had not revealed Himself to the young man. So also further back He called men evil, saying, “If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children.”6 For indeed there too He called them evil, not as condemning the whole race as evil (for by “ye,” He means not “ye men”), but comparing the goodness that is in men with the goodness of God, He thus named it; therefore also He added, “How much more shall your Father give good things to them that ask Him?” And what was there to urge Him,7 or what the profit that He should answer in this way? He leads him on by little and little, and teaches him to be far from all flattery, drawing him off from the things upon each, and fastening him upon God, and persuading him to seek after the things to come, and to know that which is really good, and the root and fountain of all things, and to refer the honors to Him.
Since also when He saith, “Call no one master upon each,” it is in contradistinction to Himself He saith this, and that they might learn what is the chief sovereignty over all things that are. For neither was it a small forwardness the young man had shown up to this time in having fallen into such a desire; and when of the rest some were tempting, some were coming to Him for the cure of diseases, either their own or others, he for eternal life was both coming to Him, and discoursing with Him. For fertile was the land and rich, but the multitude of the thorns choked the seed. Mark at any rate how he is prepared thus far for obedience to the commandments. For “By doing what,” he saith, “shall I inherit eternal life?” So ready was he for the performance of the things that should be told him. But if he had come unto Him, tempting Him, the evangelist would have declared this also to us, as He doth also with regard to the others, as in the case of the lawyer. And though himself had been silent, Christ could not have suffered him to lie concealed, but would have convicted him plainly, or at least would have intimated it, so that he should not seem to have deceived Him, and to be hidden, and thereby have suffered hurt.
If he had come unto Him tempting, he would not have departed sorrowing for what he heard. This was not at any rate ever the feeling of any of the Pharisees, but they grew fierce when their mouths were stopped. But not so this man; but he goeth away cast down, which is no little sign that not with an evil will he had come unto Him, but with one too feeble, and that he did indeed desire life, but was held in subjection by another and most grievous feeling.
Therefore when Christ said, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments,” he saith, “Which?” Not tempting, far from it, but supposing there were some others besides those of the law that should procure him life, which was like one who was very desirous. Then since Jesus mentioned those out of the law, he saith, “All these things have I kept from my youth up.”8 And neither at this did he stop, but again asks, “What lack I yet?” which itself again was a sign of his very earnest desire.9
What then saith Christ? Since He was going to enjoin something great, He setteth forth the recompenses, and saith, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven: and come, and followme.”10
2. Seest thou how many prizes, how many crowns, He appoints for this race? If he had been tempting, He would not have told him these things. But now He both saith it, and in order to draw him on, He also shows him the reward to be great, and leaves it all to his own will, by all means throwing into the shade that which seemed to be grievous in His advice. Wherefore even before mentioning the conflicts and the toil, He shows him the prize, saying “If thou wilt be perfect,” and then saith, “Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor,” and straightway again the rewards, “Thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, and follow me.” For indeed to follow Him is a great recompense. “And thou shalt have treasure in Heaven.”
For since his discourse was of money, even of all did He advise him to strip himself, showing that he loses not what he hath, but adds to his possessions, He gave him more than He required him to give up; and not only more, but also as much greater as Heaven is greater than earth, and yet more so.
But He called it a treasure, showing the plenteousness of the recompense, its permanency, its security, so far as it was possible by human similitudes to intimate it to the hearer. It is not then enough to despise wealth, but we must also maintain poor men, and above all things follow Christ; that is, do all the things that are ordered by Him, be ready for slaughter and daily death. “For if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”11 So that to cast away one’s money is a much less thing than this last commandment, to shed even one’s very blood; yet not a little doth our being freed from wealth contribute towards this.
“But when the young man heard it, he went away sorrowful”12 After this the evangelist, as it were to show that he hath not felt anything it was unlikely he should feel, saith, “For he had13 great possessions.” For they that have little are not equally held in subjection, as they that are overflowed with great affluence, for then the love of it becomes more tyrannical. Which thing I cease not always saying, that the increase of acquisitions kindles the flame more, and renders the getters poorer, inasmuch as it puts them in greater desire, and makes them have more feeling of their want.
2 1Tm 6,10. [R. V., “a root of all kinds of evil.”]
3 Mt 19,17. [This clause is found in the rec. text, but not in the better supported form of the verse, which reads, “Why askest thou me concerning that which is good? One there is who is good.” It is probable, but not certain, that Chrysostom atccepted the other form of the text. Comp. note On Homily XXVII. 5., p 186.—R.]
4 Jn 4,22.
5 Jn 5,31.
6 Mt 7,11.
7 [fhsivn, “One may say,” occurs in the Greek here.—R.]
8 . [R. V. omits “from my youth up.”]
9 [An important sentence is omitted here: “But that also was not a little thing which he supposed he lacked, nor did he think that what he had said sufficed for attaining what he desired. ”—R.]
10 Mt 19,21. [R. V., “If thou wouldest,” etc.]
11 Mt 16,24.
12 Mt 19,22.
See, for example, even here what strength did this passion exhibit. Him that had come to Him with joy and forwardness, when Christ commanded him to cast away his riches, it so overwhelmed and weighed down, as not to suffer him so much as to answer touching these things, but silenced and become dejected and sullen to go away.
What then saith Christ? “How hardly shall the rich enter into the kingdom of Heaven!”14 blaming not riches but them that are held in subjection by them. But if the rich man “hardly,” much more the covetous man. For if not to give one’s own be an hindrance to entering the kingdom, even to take of other men’s goods, think how much fire it heapeth up.
Why can it have been, however, that He said to His disciples, that “hardly shall a rich man enter in,” they being poor men, and having no possessions? Instructing them not to be ashamed of their poverty, and, as it were, excusing Himself to them for suffering them to have nothing.
But having said it was hard; as He proceeds, He shows that it is even impossible, and not merely impossible, but even in the highest degree impossible; and this He showed by the comparison concerning the camel and the15 needle.
“It is easier” saith He, “for a camel to enter in by the eye of a needle,16 than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”17 Whence it is shown, that there is no ordinary reward for them that are rich, and are able to practise self command. Wherefore also He affirmed it to be a work of God, that He might show that great grace is needed for him who is to achieve this. At least, when the disciples were troubled, he said, He said, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”18
And wherefore are the disciples troubled, being poor, yea, exceedingly poor? Wherefore then are they confounded? Being in pain about the salvation of the rest, and having a great affection for all, and having already taken upon themselves the tender bowels of teachers. They were at least in such trembling and fear for the whole world from this declaration, as to need much comfort.
Therefore, having first “beheld them, He said unto them, The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God.” For with a mild and meek look, having soothed their shuddering mind, and having put an end to their distress (for this the evangelist signified by saying, “He beheld them”), then by His words also He relieves them, bringing before them God’s power, and so making them feel confidence.
But if thou wilt learn the manner of it likewise, and how what is impossible may become possible, hear. Born either for this end did He say, “The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God,” that thou shouldest give it up, and abstain, as from things impossible; but that having considered the greatness of the good work, thou shouldest hasten to it readily, and having besought God to assist thee in these noble contests, shouldest attain unto life.
3. How then should this become possible? If thou cast away what thou hast, if thou empty thyself of thy wealth, if thou refrain from the wicked desire. For in proof that He does not refer it to God alone, but that to this end He said it, that thou shouldest know the vastness of the good work, hear what follows. For when Peter had said, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee,” and had asked, “What shall we have therefore?” having appointed the reward for them; He added, “And every one who hath forsaken houses, or lands, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit eternal life.”19 Thus that which is impossible becometh possible. But how may this very thing be done, one may say, to forsake these? how is it possible for him that is once sunk in such lust of wealth, to recover himself? If he begin to empty himself of his possessions, and cut off what are superfluous. For so shall he both advance further, and shall run on his course more easily afterwards.
Do not then seek all at once, but gently, and by little and little, ascend this ladder, that leads thee up to Heaven.20 For like as those in fevers having acrid bile abounding within them, when they cast in thereon meats and drinks, so far from quenching their thirst, do even kindle the flame; so also the covetous, when they cast in their wealth upon this wicked lust more acrid than that bile, do rather inflame it. For nothing so stays it as to refrain for a time from the lust of gain, like as acrid bile is stayed by abstinence and evacuations.
But this itself, by what means will it be done? one may say. If thou consider, that whilst rich, thou wilt never cease thirsting, and pining with the lust of more; but being freed from thy possessions, thou wilt be able also to stay this disease. Do not then encompass thyself with more, lest thou follow after things unattainable, and be incurable, and be more miserable than all, being thus frantic.
For answer me, whom shall we affirm to be tormented and pained? him that longs after costly meats and drinks, and is not able to enjoy them as he will, or him that hath not such a desire? It is quite clear one must say, him that desires, but cannot obtain what he desires. For this is so painful, to desire and not to enjoy, to thirst and not to drink, that Christ desiring to describe hell to us, described it in this way, and introduced the rich man thus tormented. For longing for a drop of water, and not enjoying it, this was his punishment. So then he that despises wealth quiets the desire, but he that desires to be rich21 hath inflamed it more, and not yet doth he stay; but though he have got ten thousand talents, he desireth as much more; though he obtain these, again he aims at sea, and all to become gold for him, being mad with a kind of new and fearful madness, and one that can never thus be extinguished.
And that thou mightest learn, that not by addition but by taking away this evil is stayed; if thou hadst ever had an absurd desire to fly and to be borne through the air, how wouldest thou extinguish this unreasonable desire? By fashioning wings, and preparing other instruments, or by convincing the mind that it is desiring things impossible, and that one should attempt none of these things? It is quite plain, that by convincing the mind. But that, thou mayest say, is impossible. But this again is more impossible, to find a limit for this desire. For indeed it is more easy for men to fly, than to make this lust cease by an addition of more. For when the objects of desire are possible, one may be soothed by the enjoyment of them, but when they are impossible, one must labor for one thing, to draw ourselves off from the desire, as otherwise at least it is not possible to recover the soul.
Therefore that we may not have superfluous sorrows, let us forsake the love of money that is ever paining, and never endures to hold its peace, and let us remove ourselves to another love, which both makes us happy, and hath great facility, and let us long after the treasures above. For neither is the labor here so great, and the gain is unspeakable, and it is not possible for him to fail of them who is but in any wise watchful and sober, and despises the things present; even as on the other hand, as to him that is a slave to these last, and is utterly given up to them, it as altogether of necessity that he fail of those better riches.
4. Considering then all these things, put away the wicked desire of wealth. For neither couldest thou say this, that it gives the things present, though it deprive us of the things to come, albeit even if this were so, this were extreme punishment, and vengeance. But and before that hell, even here it casts thee into a more grievous punishment. For many houses hath this lust overthrown, and fierce wars hath it stirred up, and compelled men to end their lives by a violent death; and before these dangers it ruins the nobleness of the soul, and is wont often to make him that hath it cowardly, and unmanly, and rash, and false, and calumnious, and ravenous, and over-reaching, and all the worst things.
But seeing perhaps the brightness of the silver, and the multitude of the servants, and the beauty of the buildings, the court paid in the market-place, art thou bewitched thereby? What remedy then may there be for this evil wound? If thou consider how these things affect thy soul, how dark, and desolate, and foul they render it, and how ugly; if thou reckon with how many evils these things were acquired, with how many labors they are kept, with how many dangers: or rather they are not kept unto the end, but when thou hast escaped the attempts of all, death coming on thee is often wont to remove these things into the hand of thine enemies, and goeth and taketh thee with him destitute, drawing after thee none of these things, save the wounds and the sores only, which the soul received from these, before its departing. When then thou seest any one resplendent outwardly with raiment and large attendance, lay open his conscience, and thou shalt see many a cobweb within, and much dust. Consider Paul, Peter Consider John, Elias, or rather the Son of God Himself, who hath not where to lay His head. Be an imitator of Him, and of His servants, and imagine to thyself the unspeakable riches of these.
But if having obtained a little sight by these, thou shouldest be darkened again, as in any shipwreck when a storm hath come on, hear the declaration of Christ, which affirms, that it is impossible “for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” And against this declaration set the mountains, and the earth, and the sea; and all things, if thou wilt, suppose22 to be gold; for thou shalt see nothing equal to the loss arising to thee from thence. And thou indeed makest mention of acres of land, so many and so many, and of houses ten or twenty or even more, and of baths as many, and of slaves a thousand, or twice as many, and of chariots fastened with silver and overlaid with gold; but I say this, that if each one of you that are rich were to leave this poverty (for these things are poverty compared with what I am about to say), and were possessed of a whole world, and each of them had as many men as are now everywhere on land and sea, and each a world both sea and land, and everywhere buildings, and cities, and nations, and from every side instead of water, instead of fountains, gold flowed up for him, I would not say those who are thus rich are worth three farthings, when they are cast out of the kingdom
For if now aiming at riches that perish, when they miss them, they are tormented, if they should obtain a perception of those unspeakable blessings, what then will suffice for consolation for them? There is nothing Tell me not then of the abundance of their possessions, but consider how great loss the lovers of this abundance undergo in consequence thereof, for these things losing Heaven, and being in the same state, as if any one after being cast out of the highest honor in kings’ courts, having a dung heap, were to pride himself on that. For the storing up of money differs nothing from that, or rather that is even the better. For that is serviceable both for husbandry, and for heating a bath, and for other such uses, but the buried gold for none of these things. And would it were merely useless; but as it is, it kindles moreover many furnaces for him that hath it, unless he use it rightly; countess evils at least spring therefrom.
Therefore they that are without used to call the love of money the citadel23 of evils; but the blessed Paul spake much better and more vividly, pronouncing it “the root of all evils.”24
Considering then all these things, let us emulate the things worthy of emulation, not gorgeous buildings not costly estates, but the men that have much confidence towards God, those that have riches in Heaven, the owners of those treasures, them that are really rich, them that are poor for Christ’s sake, that we may attain unto the good things of eternity by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and always and world without end. Amen.
13 [R. V., “he was one that had,” etc.]
14 Mt 19,23. [The citation is a combination of this verse and Mc 10,23. The iufluence of Mark’s more striking account is seen throughout the Homily.—R.]
16 [R. V., with the same Greek text, renders, “to go through a needle’s eye.” The variation in the English above seems unnecessary.—R.]
17 Mt 19,24.
18 Mt 19,26.
19 . [The position of the word “lands” is peculiar; “or wife” is not found here, but occurs in Homily LXIV. 1.—R.]
20 [The following clause is omitted in the translation: “though (or, if) as a whole it seems difficult to them.”—R.]
21 [The Greek adds here, kai; peribavllesqai pleivw, and to possess himself of more.—R.]
22 tw`/ lovgw/ poivhson).
23 Mr. Field cites Stob’us, p. 130, 52, of Bion, and Diog. Laert. 6,50, of Diogenes the cynic, noting that both say mhtrovpoli", not ajkpovpolis. See Adnot. p. 133).
24 1Tm 6,10. [R. V., “a root of all kinds of evil.”
Chrysostom hom. on Mt 62