Chrysostom Philippians 800
800 not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life; that I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ.” Ph 2,12-16
801 The admonitions which we give ought to be accompanied with commendations; for thus they become even welcome, when we refer those whom we admonish to that measure of zeal which they have themselves exhibited; as Paul, for instance, did here; and observe with what singular discretion; “So then, my beloved,” he says; he did not say simply “be obedient,” not until he had first commended them in these words, “even as ye have always obeyed”; i.e. “it is not other men, but your own selves, whom I bid you take example by.” “Not as in my presence only, but much more in my absence.” And why, “much more in my absence”? “Ye seemed perhaps at that time to be doing everything out of respect to me, and from a principle of shame, but that is no longer so; if then ye make it evident that ye now strive more earnestly, it is also made evident that neither then was it done out of consideration to me, but for God’s sake.” Tell me, what wouldest thou? “not that ye give heed to me, but that ye ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling’”; for it is impossible for one, who lives devoid of fear, to set forth any high or commanding example; and he said not merely “with fear,” but “and with trembling,” which is an excessive degree of fear. Such fear had Paul: and therefore he said, I fear “lest having preached to others, I myself should be rejected.” (1Co 9,27). For if without the aid of fear temporal things can never be achieved, how much less spiritual matters; for I desire to know, who ever learnt his letters without fear? who has become a proficient in any art, without fear? But if, when the devil does not lie in the way, where indolence is the only obstacle, so much of fear is necessary merely in order that we may master that indolence which is natural to us; where there is so fierce a war, so great hindrances, how can we by any possibility be saved without fear?
And how may this fear be produced? If we but consider that God is everywhere present, heareth all things, seeth all things, not only whatsoever is done and said, but also all that is in the heart, and in the depth of the soul, for He is “quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (He 4,12)., if we so dispose ourselves, we shall not do or say or imagine aught that is evil. Tell me, if thou hadst to stand constantly near the person of a ruler, wouldest not thou stand there with fear? and how standing in God’s presence, dost thou laugh and throw thyself back, and not conceive fear and dread? Let it never be that thou despisest His patient endurance, for it is to bring thee to repentance that He is longsuffering. Whenever thou eatest, consider that God is present, for He is present; whenever thou art preparing to sleep, or giving way to passion, if thou art robbing another, or indulging in luxury, or whatever thou art about, thou wilt never fall into laughter, never be inflamed with rage. If this be thy thought continually, thou wilt continually be in “fear and trembling,” forasmuch as thou art standing beside the King. The architect, though he be experienced, though he be perfectly master of his art, yet stands with “fear and trembling,” lest he fall down from the building. Thou too hast believed, thou hast performed many good deeds, thou hast mounted high: secure thyself, be in fear as thou standest, and keep a wary eye, lest thou fall thence. For manifold are the spiritual sorts of wickedness which aim to cast thee down. (Ep 6,12). “Serve the Lord with fear,” he says, “and rejoice unto Him with trembling.” (Ps 2,11). And how is rejoicing compatible with “trembling”? Yet this, be assured, is the only rejoicing; for when we perform some good work, and such as beseemeth those who do anything “with trembling,” then only do we rejoice. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”: he says not “work,” but “work out,” i.e. with much earnestness, with much diligence; but as he had said, “with fear and trembling,” see how he relieves their anxiety: for what does he say? “It is God that worketh in you.” Fear not because said, “with fear and trembling.” I said it not with this view, that thou shouldest give up in despair, that thou shouldest suppose virtue to be somewhat difficult to be attained, but that thou mightest be led to follow after it, and not spend thyself in vain pursuits; if this be the case, God will work all things. Do thou be bold; “for it is God that worketh in you.” If then He worketh, it is our part to bring a mind ever resolute, clenched and unrelaxed. “For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to work.” “If He does Himself work in us to will, how dost thou exhort us? for if He works Himself even the will, the words, which you speak to us, have no meaning, ‘that ye have obeyed’; for we have not ‘obeyed’; it is without meaning that thou sayest, ‘with fear and trembling’; for the whole is of God.” It was not for this that I said to you, “for it is He that worketh in you both to will and to work,” but my object was to relieve your anxiety. If thou wilt, in that case He will “work in thee to will.” Be not affrighted, thou art not worsted; both the hearty desire and the accomplishment are a gift from Him: for where we have the will, thenceforward He will increase our will. For instance, I desire to do some good work: He has wrought the good work itself, and by means of it He has wrought also the will.
802 Or he says this in the excess of his piety, as when he declares that our well-doings are gifts of grace.
As then, when he calls these gifts, he does not put us out of the pale of free will, but accords to us free will, so when he says, “to work in us to will,” he does not deprive us of free will, but he shows that by actually doing right we greatly increase our heartiness in willing. For as doing comes of doing, so of not doing comes not doing. Hast thou given an alms? thou art the more incited to give. Hast thou refused to give? thou art become so much the more disinclined. Hast thou practiced temperance for one day? Thou hast an incitement for the next likewise. Hast thou indulged to excess? Thou hast increased the inclination to self-indulgence. “When a wicked man cometh into the depth of vice, then he despises.” (Pr 18,3). As, then, when a man cometh into the depth of iniquity, he turns a despiser; so when he cometh into the depth of goodness, he quickens his exertions. For as the one runs riot in despair, so the second, under a sense of the multitude of good things, exerts himself the more, fearing lest he should lose the whole. “For His good pleasure,” he says, that is, “for love’s sake,” for the sake of pleasing Him; to the end that what is acceptable to Him may take place; that things may take place according to His will. Here he shows, and makes it a ground of confidence, that He is sure to work in us, for it is His will that we live as He desires we should, and if He desires it, He Himself both worketh in us to this end, and will certainly accomplish it; for it is His will that we live aright. Seest thou, how he does not deprive us of free will?
“Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” The devil, when he finds that he has no power to withdraw us from doing right, wishes to spoil our reward by other means. For he has taken occasion to insinuate pride or vainglory, or if none of these things, then murmuring, or, if not this, misgivings. Now then see how Paul sweeps away all these. He said on the subject of humility all that he did say, to overthrow pride; he spoke of vainglory, that is, “not as in my presence only”; he here speaks of “murmuring and disputing.” But why, I want to know, when in the case of the Corinthians he was engaged in uprooting this evil tendency, did he remind them of the Israelites, but here has said nothing of the sort, but simply charged them? Because in that case the mischief was already done, for which reason there was need of a more severe stroke and a sharper rebuke; but here he is giving admonitions to prevent its being done. Severe measures then were not called for in order to secure those that had not yet been guilty; as in leading them to humility he did not subjoin the instance in the Gospel, wherein the proud were punished, but laid the charge as from God’s lips (Lc 16,23 Lc 18,14) (?).; and he addresses them as free, as children of pure birth, not as servants; for in the practice of virtue a rightminded and generous person is influenced by those who do well, but one of bad principles by those who do not do well; the one by the consideration of honor, the other of punishment. Wherefore also writing to the Hebrews, he said, bringing forward the example of Esau, “Who for one mess of meat sold his own birthright” (He 12,16).; and again, “if he shrink back, my soul hath no pleasure in him.” (He 10,38). And among the Corinthians were many who had been guilty of fornication. Therefore he said, “Lest when I come again my God should humble me before you, and I should mourn for many that have sinned heretofore, and repented not of the uncleanness, and fornication, and lasciviousness which they committed. (2Co 12,21). That ye may be blameless,” says he, “and harmless”; i.e. irreproachable, unsullied; for murmuring occasions no slight stain. And what means “without disputing”? Is it good, or not good? Do not dispute, he says, though it be trouble, or labor, or any thing else whatever. He did not say, “that ye be not punished,” for punishment is reserved for the thing; and this he made evident in the Epistle to the Corinthians; but here he said nothing of the sort; but he says, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life, that I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ.” Observest thou that he is instructing these not to murmur? So that murmuring is left for unprincipled and graceless slaves. For tell me, what manner of son is that, who murmurs at the very time that he is employed in the affairs of his father, and is working for his own benefit? Consider, he says, that you are laboring for yourself, that it is for yourself that you are laying up; it is for those to murmur, when others profit by their labors, others reap the fruit, while they bear the burden; but he that is gathering for himself, why should he murmur? Because his wealth does not increase? But it is not so. Why does he murmur who acts of free-will, and not by constraint? It is better to do nothing than to do it with murmuring, for even the very thing itself is spoilt. And do you not remark that in our own families we are continually saying this; “it were better for these things never to be done, than to have them done with murmuring”? and we had often rather be deprived of the services some one owes us, than submit to the inconvenience of his murmuring. For murmuring is intolerable, most intolerable; it borders upon blasphemy. Otherwise why had those men to pay a penalty so severe? It is a proof of ingratitude; the murmurer is ungrateful to God, but whoso is ungrateful to God does thereby become a blasphemer.
803 Now there were at that time, if ever, uninterrupted troubles, and dangers without cessation: there was no pause, no remission: innumerable were the horrors, which pressed upon them from all quarters; but now we have profound peace, a perfect calm.
Wherefore then murmur? Because thou art poor? Yet think of Jb Or because sickness is thy lot? What then if, with the consciousness of as many excellencies and as high attainments as that holy man, thou hadst been so afflicted? Again reflect on him, how that for a long time he never ceased to breed worms, sitting upon a dunghill and scraping his sores; for the account says that “(after a long time had passed,) then said his wife unto him, How long wilt thou persist, saying, Yet a little while I bide in expectation? Speak some word against the Lord, and die.” (Jb 2,9), LXX). But your child is dead? What then if thou hadst lost all thy children, and that by an evil fate, as he did? For ye know, ye know well, that it is no slight alleviation to take our place beside the sick man, to close the mouth, to shut the eyes, to stroke the beard, to hear the last accents; but that just man was vouchsafed none of these consolations, they all being overwhelmed at once. And what do I say? Hadst thou, thine own self, been bidden to slay and offer up thine own son, and to see the body consumed, like that blessed Patriarch, what then wouldst thou have felt whilst erecting the altar, laying on the wood, binding the child? But there are some who revile thee? What then would be thy feelings did thy friends, come to administer consolation to thee, speak like Job’s? For, as it is, innumerable are our sins, and we deserve to be reproached; but in that case he who was true, just, godly, who kept himself from every evil deed, heard the contrary of those laid to his charge by his friends. What then, tell me, if thou hadst heard thy wife exclaiming in accents of reproach; “I am a vagabond and a servant, wandering from place to place, and from house to house, waiting until the sun goes down, that I may rest from the woes that encompass me.” (Jb 2,9), LXX). Why dost thou speak so, O foolish woman? for is thine husband to blame for these things? Nay, but the devil. “Speak a word against God,” she says, “and die”;—and if thereupon the stricken man had cursed and died, how wouldest thou be the better?—No disease you can name is worse than that of his, though you name ten thousand. It was so grievous, that he could no longer be in the house and under cover; such, that all men gave him up. For if he had not been irrecoverably gone, he would never have taken his seat without the city, a more pitiable object than those afflicted with leprosy; for these are both admitted into houses, and they do herd together; but he passing the night in the open air, was naked upon a dunghill, and could not even bear a garment upon his body. How so? Perhaps there would only have been an addition to his pangs. For “I melt the clods of the earth,” he says, “while I scrape off my sore.” (Jb 7,5), LXX). His flesh bred sores and worms in him, and that continually. Seest thou how each one of us sickens at the hearing of these things? but if they are intolerable to hear, is the sight of them more tolerable? and if the sight of them is intolerable, how much more intolerable to undergo them? And yet that righteous man did undergo them, not for two or three days, but for a long while, and he did not sin, not even with his lips. What disease can you describe to me like this, so exquisitely painful? for was not this worse than blindness? “I look on my food,” he says, “as a fetid mass.” (Jb 6,7) And not only this, but that which affords cessation to others, night and sleep, brought no alleviation to him, nay, were worse than any torture. Hear his words: “Why dost thou scare me with dreams, and terrify me through visions? If it be morning, I say, When will it be evening?” (Jb 7,14 Jb 7,4), and he murmured not. And there was not only this; but reputation in the eyes of the world was added; for they forthwith concluded him to be guilty of endless crimes, judging from all that he suffered. And accordingly this is the consideration, which his friends urged upon him; “Know therefore that God exacteth less of thee than thine iniquities deserve.” (Jb 11,6). Wherefore he himself said, “But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I disdained to set with the dogs of my flock.” (Jb 30,1). And was not this worse than many deaths? Yet though assaulted on all sides by a flood like this, when there raged around him a fearful storm, clouds, rain, lightnings, whirling winds, and waterspouts, he remained himself unmoved, seated as it were in the midst of this surge, thus awful and overwhelming, as in a perfect calm, and no murmur escaped him; and this before the gift of grace, before that aught was declared concerning a resurrection, before aught concerning hell and punishment and vengeance. Yet we, who hear both Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists speaking to us, and have innumerable examples set before us, and have been taught the tidings of a Resurrection, yet harbor discontent, though no man can say that such a fate as this has been his own. For if one has lost money, yet not all that great number of sons and daughters, or if he has, perchance it was that he had sinned; but for him, he lost them suddenly, in the midst of his sacrifices, in the midst of the service which he was rendering to God. And if any man has at one blow lost property to the same amount, which can never be, yet he has not had the further affliction of a sore all over his body, he has not scraped the humors that covered him; or if this likewise has been his fate, yet he has not had men to upbraid and reproach him, which is above all things calculated to wound the feelings, more than the calamities we suffer. For if when we have persons to cheer and console us in our misfortunes, and to hold out to us fair prospects, we yet despond, consider what it was to have men upbraiding him. If the words, “I looked for some to have pity, but there was no man, and for comforters, but I found none” (Ps 69,20), describe intolerable misery, how great an aggravation to find revilers instead of comforters! “Miserable comforters are ye all” (Jb 16,2), he says. If we did but revolve these subjects continually in our minds, if we well weighed them, no ills of this present time could ever have force to disturb our peace, when we turned our eyes to that athlete, that soul of adamant, that spirit impenetrable as brass. For as though he had borne about him a body of brass or stone, he met all events with a noble and constant spirit.
804 Taking these things to heart, let us do everything “without murmuring and disputing.” Is it some good work that thou hast before thee, and dost thou murmur? wherefore? art thou then forced? for that there are many about you who force you to murmur, I know well, says he. This he intimated by saying, “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation”; but it is this that deserves admiration, that we admit no such feeling when under galling provocation. For the stars too give light in the night, they shine in the dark, and receive no blemish to their own beauty, yea they even shine the brighter; but when light returns, they no longer shine so. Thus thou too dost appear with the greater lustre, whilst thou holdest straight in the midst of the crooked. This it is which deserves our admiration, the being “blameless”; for that they might not urge this plea, he himself set it down by anticipation. What means “holding fast the word of life”? i.e. “being destined to live, being of those that are gaining salvation.” Observe how immediately he subjoins the rewards, which are in reserve. Lights [i.e. luminaries], he says, retain the principle of light; so do ye the principle of life. What means “the word of life”? Having the seed of life, i.e. having pledges of life, holding life itself, i.e. “having in yourselves the seed of life,” this is what he calls “the word of life.” Consequently the rest are all dead, for by these words he signified as much; for otherwise those others likewise would have held “the word of life.” “That I may have whereof to glory,” he says; what is this? I too participate in your good deeds, he says. So great is your virtue, as not only to save yourselves, but to render me illustrious. Strange kind of “boasting,” thou blessed Paul! Thou art scourged, driven about, reviled for our sakes: therefore he adds, “in the day of Christ, that I did not run,” he says, “in vain, nor labored in vain,” but I always have a right to glory, he means, that I did not run in vain.
“Yea, and if I am offered.” He said not, “and if I die even,” nor did he when writing to Timothy, for there, too, he has made use of the same expression, “For I am already being offered.” (2Tm 4,6). He is both consoling them about his own death, and instructing them to bear gladly the death that is for Christ’s sake. I am become, he says, as it were a libation and a sacrifice. O blessed soul! His bringing them to God he calls a sacrifice. It is much better to present a soul than to present oxen. “If, then, over and above this offering,” he says, “I add myself, my death as a libation, I rejoice.” For this he implies, when he says, “Yea, and if I am offered upon the sacrifice and service, I joy and rejoice with you all; and in the same manner do ye also joy and rejoice with me.” Why dost thou rejoice with them? Seest thou that he shows that it is their duty to rejoice? On the one hand then, I rejoice in being made a libation; on the other, I rejoice with you, in having presented a sacrifice; “and in the same manner do ye also joy and rejoice with me,” that I am offered up; “rejoice with me,” “who rejoice in myself.” So that the death of the just is no subject for tears, but for joy. If they rejoice, we should rejoice with them. For it is misplaced for us to weep, while they rejoice. “But,” it is urged, “we long for our wonted intercourse.” This is a mere pretext and excuse; and that it is so, mark what he enjoins: “Rejoice with me, and joy.” Dost thou miss thy wonted intercourse? If thou wert thyself destined to remain here, there would be reason in what thou sayest; but if after a brief space thou wilt overtake him who has departed, what is that intercourse which thou dost seek? for it is only when he is forever severed from him that a man misses the society of another, but if he will go the same way that thou wilt go, what is the intercourse which thou longest for? Why do we not bewail all that are upon foreign travel? Do we not just a little, and cease after the first or the second day? If thou longest for thy wonted intercourse with him, weep so far only. “It is no evil that I suffer,” says he, “but I even rejoice in going to Christ, and do ye not rejoice.” “Rejoice with me.” Let us too rejoice when we see a righteous man dying, and yet more even when any of the desperately wicked; for the first is going to receive the reward of his labors, but the other has abated somewhat from the score of his sins. But it is said, perhaps he might have altered, had he lived. Yet God would never have taken him away, if there had been really a prospect of an alteration. For why should not He who orders all events for our salvation, allow him the opportunity, who gave promise of pleasing Him? If He leaves those, who never alter, much more those that do. Let then the sharpness of our sorrow be everywhere cut away, let the voice of lamentation cease. Let us thank God under all events: let us do all things without murmuring; let us be cheerful, and let us become pleasing to Him in all things, that we may also attain the good things to come, by the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, &c.
900 that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will care truly for your state. For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ.” Ph 2,19-30
901 He had said, “have fallen out unto the progress of the Gospel; so that my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard.” (Ph 1,12-13). Again, “Yea, and if I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith.” (Ph 2,17). By these words he strengthened them. Perchance they might suspect that his former words were spoken just to comfort them. What then? “I send Timothy unto you,” says he; for they desired to hear all things that concerned him. And wherefore said he not, “that ye may know my state,” but, “that I may know yours”? Because Epaphroditus would have reported his state before the arrival of Timothy. Wherefore further on he says, "But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother (Ph 2,25); but I wish to learn of your affairs. For it is likely that he had remained long time with Paul through his bodily weakness. So that he says, I wish to “know your state.” See then how he refers everything to Christ, even the mission of Timothy, saying, “I hope in the Lord Jesus,” that is, I am confident that God will facilitate this for me, that I too may be of good courage, when I know your state. As I refreshed you when ye heard the very things of me which ye had prayed for, that the Gospel had advanced, that its enemies were put to shame, that the means by which they thought to injure, rather made me rejoice; thus too do I wish to learn of your affairs, that I too may be of good courage when I know your state. Here he shows that they ought to rejoice for his bonds, and to be conformed to them, for they begat in him great pleasure; for the words, “that I too may be of good comfort,” imply, just as you are.
Oh, what longing had he toward Macedonia! He testifies the same to the Thessalonians, as when he says, “But we, brethren, being bereaved of you for a short season,” &c. (1Th 2,17). And here he says, “I hope to send Timothy” that I may “know your state,” which is a proof of excessive care: for when he could not himself be with them, he sent his disciples, as he could not endure to remain, even for a little time, in ignorance of their state. For he did not learn all things by revelation of the Spirit, and for this we can see some reason; for if the disciples had believed that it were so, they would have lost all sense of shame, but now from expectation of concealment, they were more easily corrected. In a high degree did he call their attention by saying, “that I too may be of good comfort,” and rendered them more zealous, so that, when Timothy came he might not find any other state of things, and report it to him. He seems to have acted in like sort in his own person, when he delayed his coming to the Corinthians, that they might repent; wherefore he wrote, “to spare you I forbare to come to Corinth.” (2Co 1,23). For his love was manifested not simply in reporting his own state, but in his desire to learn of theirs; for this is the part of a soul which has a care of others, which takes thought for them, which is always wrestling for them.
At the same time too, he honors them by sending Timothy. “What sayest thou? dost thou send Timothy? and wherefore?” Because “I have no one likeminded”; that is, none of those whose care is like mine, none who “will care truly for you.” (Ph 2,20). Had he then no one of those who were with him? No one likeminded, that is, who has yearnings and takes thought for you as I do. No one would lightly choose, he means, to make so long a journey for this purpose. Timothy is the one with me who loves you. For I might have sent others, but there was none like him. This then is that likemindedness, to love the disciples as the master loves them. “Who,” says he, “will truly care for you,” that is, as a father. “For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ” (Ph 2,21), their own comfort, their own safety. This too he writes to Timothy. But why doth he lament such things as these? To teach us his hearers not to fall in like sort, to teach his hearers not to seek for remission from toil; for he who seeks remission from toil, seeks not the things that are Christ’s, but his own. We ought to be prepared against every toil, against every distress.
Ph 2,22. “Ye know the proof of him, that as a child serveth a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the Gospel.”
And that I speak not at random, “ye yourselves,” he says, “know, that as a child serveth a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the Gospel.” He presents then Timothy to them, and with reason, that he might enjoy much honor from them. This too he does when he writes to the Corinthians, and he says, “Let no man therefore despise him, for he worketh the work of the Lord as I also do.” (1Co 16,10). This he said not as caring for him, but for those who receive him, that they might receive a great reward.
Ph 2,23. “Him therefore,” he says, “I hope to send forthwith, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me,” that is, when I see where I stand, and what end my affairs will have.
Ph 2,24. “But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come to you shortly.”
I am not therefore sending him, as though I myself would not come, but that I may be of good courage when I know your state, that even in the mean time I may not be ignorant of it. “But I trust in the Lord,” says he. See how he makes all things depend on God, and speaks nothing of his own mind. That is, God willing).
902 Ph 2,25. “But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier.”
And him too he sends with the same praises as Timothy, for he commended him on these two points; first, in that he loved them, when he says, “who will care truly for you”; and secondly, in that he had approved himself in the Gospel. And for the same reason, and in the same terms, he praises this man also: and how? By calling him a brother, and a fellow-worker, and not stopping at this point, but also “fellow-soldier,” he showed how he shared in his dangers, and testifies of him the same things which he testifies of himself. For “fellow-soldier” is more than “fellow-worker”; for perchance he gave aid in quiet matters, yet not so in wars and dangers; but in saying “fellow-soldier,” he showed this too.
Ph 2,25. “To send to you your messenger, and minister to my needs”; that is, I give you your own, since I send to you him that is your own, or, perhaps, that is your Teacher. Again he adds many things concerning his love, in saying,
Ph 2,26-27. “Since he longed after you all, and was sore troubled, because ye had heard that he was sick. 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.”
Here he aims at a farther point, making it manifest, that Epaphroditus too was well aware, how he was beloved of them. And this is no light thing toward loving. You know how he was sick, he says; and he grieved that on his recovery he did not see you, and free you from the grief ye had by reason of his sickness. Here too he gives another reason for sending so late to them, not from any remissness, but he kept Timothy because he had no one else, (for, as he had written, he had “no one likeminded,”) and Epaphroditus because of his sickness. He then shows that this was a long sickness, and had consumed much time, by adding, “for he was sick nigh unto death.” You see how anxious Paul is to cut off from his disciples all occasion of slighting or contempt, and every suspicion that his not coming was because he despised them. For nothing will have such power to draw a disciple toward one, as the persuasion that his superior cares for him, and that he is full of heaviness on his account, for this is the part of exceeding love. Because “ye have heard,” he says, “that he was sick; for he was sick nigh unto death.” And that I am not making an excuse, hear what follows. “But God had mercy on him.” What sayest thou, O heretic? Here it is written, that God’s mercy retained and brought back again him who was on the point of departure. And yet if the world is evil, it is no mercy to leave a man in the evil. Our answer to the heretic is easy, but what shall we say to the Christian? for he perchance will question, and say, “if to depart and to be with Christ is far better,” how saith he that he hath obtained mercy? I would ask why the same Apostle says, that “it is more needful to abide with you”? For as it was needful for him, so too for this man, who would hereafter depart to God with more exceeding riches, and greater boldness. Hereafter that would take place, even if it did not now, but the winning souls is at an end for those who have once departed thither. In many places too, Paul speaks according to the common habits of his hearers, and not every where in accordance with his own heavenly wisdom: for he had to speak to men of the world who still feared death. Then he shows how he esteemed Epaphroditus, and thence he gets for him respect, by saying, that his preservation was so useful to himself, that the mercy which had been shown to Epaphroditus reached him also. Moreover, without this the present life is a good; were it not so, why does Paul rank with punishment untimely deaths? as when he says, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and not a few sleep” (1Co 11,30); for the future life is not (merely) better than an evil state, since (then) it were not good, but better than a good state.
“Lest I should have,” he says, “sorrow upon sorrow”; sorrow from his death in addition to that which sprung from his sickness. By this he shows how much he prized Epaphroditus.
Ph 2,28. “I have sent him therefore the more diligently.” What means “more diligently”? It is, without procrastination, without delay, with much speed, having bidden him lay all aside, and to go to you, that he might be freed from heaviness; for we rejoice not on hearing of the health of those we love, so much as when we see them, and chiefly so when this happens contrary to hope, as it was in the case of Epaphroditus.
“I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.” How “less sorrowful”? Because if ye rejoice, I too rejoice, and he too joys at a pleasure of such sort, and I shall be “less sorrowful.” He said not sorrowless, but “less sorrowful,” to show that his soul never was free from sorrow: for he who said, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is made to stumble, and I burn not?” (2Co 11,29), when could such an one be free from sorrow? That is, this despondency I now cast off.
903 Ph 2,29. “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy.”
“In the Lord” either means spiritually and with much zeal, or rather “in the Lord” means God willing. Receive him in a manner worthy of saints, as saints should be received with all joy.
All this he does for their sakes, not for that of his messengers, for greater gain has the doer than the receiver of a good deed. “And such hold in honor,” that is, receive him in a manner worthy of saints.
Ph 2,30. “Because for the work of Christ he came nigh unto death, hazarding his life, to supply that which was lacking in your service towards me.”
This man had been publicly sent by the city of the Philippians, who had come as minister to Paul, and perchance bringing him some contribution, for toward the end of the Epistle he shows that he also brought him money, when he says, “Having received of Epaphroditus the things that came from you.” (Ph 4,18).
It is probable then, that on his arrival at the city of Rome, he found Paul in great and urgent peril, so that those who were accustomed to resort to him were unable safely to do so, but were themselves in peril by their very attendance; which is wont to happen chiefly in very great dangers, and the exceeding wrath of kings, (for when any one has offended the king, and is cast into prison, and is strictly guarded, then even his servants are debarred from access, which probably then befell Paul,) and that Epaphroditus, being of a noble nature, despised all danger, that he might go in unto him, and minister unto him, and do everything which need required. He therefore sets forth two facts, by which he gains for him their respect; the one, that he was in jeopardy well nigh unto death, he says, for my sake; the other, that in so suffering he was representing their city, so that the recompense for that his peril would be accounted to those who sent him, as if the city had sent him as their ambassador, so that a kind reception of him and approval of what he had done may rather be called a participation in the things that he had dared. And he said not, “for my sake,” but obtains the more credit for his words, by saying, “because for the work of God,” since he acted not for my sake, but for God’s sake “he was nigh unto death.” What then? though by the providence of God he died not, yet he himself regarded not his life, and gave himself up to any suffering that might befall him, so as not to remit his attendance on me. And if he gave himself up to death to attend on Paul, much more would he have endured this for the Gospel’s sake. Or rather, this also had been for the Gospel’s sake, even to have died for Paul. For we may bind about our brows the crown of martyrdom, not only by refusing to sacrifice, but such causes as these also make death martyrdom, and if I may say something startling, these latter do so far more than the former. For he who dares to face death for the lesser cause, will much rather for the greater. Let us therefore, when we see the Saints in danger, regard not our life, for it is impossible without daring ever to perform any noble act, but need is that he who takes thought beforehand for his safety here, should fall from that which is to come.
“To supply,” he says, “your lack of service toward me.” What is this? the city was not present, but by sending him, it fulfilled through him all service toward me. He therefore supplied your lack of service, so that for this reason too he deserves to enjoy much honor, since, what ye all should have done, this hath he performed on your behalf. Here he shows that there is also a foregoing service rendered by those in safety to those in danger, for so he speaks of the lack, and the lack of service. Seest thou the spirit of the Apostle? These words spring not from arrogance, but from his great care towards them; for he calls the matter a “service” and a “lack,” that they may not be puffed up, but be moderate, nor think that they have rendered some great thing, but rather be humble-minded.
For we owe the saints a debt, and are not doing them a favor. For as supplies are due by those who are in peace and not engaged in war to such as stand in the army and fight (for these stand on their behoof), thus too is it here. For if Paul had not taught, who would have cast him into prison? Wherefore we ought to minister to the Saints. For is it not absurd to contribute to an earthly king, when engaged in war, all that he wants, as clothing and food, not according to his need alone, but abundantly, whilst to the King of Heaven, when engaged in war, and contending against far more bitter foes (for it is written, “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood”) (Ep 6,12), we will not supply urgent necessity? What folly is this! What ingratitude! What base love of gain!
904 But, as it seems, the fear of man has greater force with us than hell, and the future torments. For this cause, in truth, all things are turned upside down; for political affairs are daily accomplished with much earnestness, and one must not be left behind, whilst of spiritual things there is no account taken at all; but the things which are demanded of us of necessity, and with compulsion, as though we were slaves, and against our wills, are laid down by us with much readiness, while such as are asked from willing minds, and as if from free men, are again deficient. I speak not against all, but against those who are behindhand with these supplies. For might not God have made these contributions compulsory? Yet He would not, for He has more care of you than of those whom you support. Wherefore He would not that you should contribute of necessity, since there is no recompense. And yet many of those who stand here are lower minded than the Jews. Consider how great things the Jews gave, tithes, first-fruits, tithes again, and again other tithes, and besides this thirteenths, and the shekel, and no one said, how much they devour; for the more they receive, the greater is the reward. They say not, They receive much, they are gluttons; which words I hear now from some. They for their part, while they are building houses, and buying estates, still think they have nothing; but if any priest is clothed in dress more bright than usual, and enjoys more than what is necessary for his sustenance, or has an attendant, that he may not be forced himself to act unbecomingly, they set the matter down for riches. And in truth we are rich even at this rate, and they admit it against their will; for we, though we have but little, are rich, whilst they, though they get everything about them, are poor.
How far shall our folly extend? does it not suffice to our punishment that we do no good deed, but must we add to it the punishment of evil speaking? For if what he has were your gifts, you lose your reward by upbraiding him for what you gave. In a word, if thou didst give it, why dost thou upbraid him? You have already borne witness to his poverty, by saying that what he has are your gifts. Why then dost thou upbraid? Thou shouldest not have given, didst thou intend so to do. But dost thou speak thus, when another gives? It is then more grievous, in that when thou thyself hast not given, thou upbraidest for another man’s good deeds. How great reward thinkest thou those who are thus spoken of will receive? It is for God’s sake they thus suffer. How and wherefore? Had they so willed, they might have taken up a trader’s life, even though they received it not from their ancestors. For I hear many speaking thus at random, when we say that a certain man is poor. Had he willed, they say, he might have been rich, and then tauntingly add, His father, his grandfather, and I know not who was so; but now see what a robe he wears! But what? tell me, ought he to go about naked? You then start nice questionings on these points, but see lest thou thus speakest against thyself. Listen to that exhortation of Christ, which says, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” (Mt 7,1) He might, it is true, if he had willed, have led a trader’s or a merchant’s life, and would surely not have lacked. But he would not. What then, says one, is he here profited? Tell me, what is he profited? Does he wear silken robes? Does he proudly clear his way through the forum with a troop of followers? Is he borne along on horseback? Does he build houses, having where to dwell? If he act so, I too accuse him, and spare him not, but declare that he is unworthy of the priesthood. For how can he exhort others not to spend their time on these superfluities, who cannot advise himself? But if he has sufficient for support, is he therefore doing wrong? Would you have him lead a vagabond life, and beg? Wouldest not thou too, his disciple, be put to shame? But if thy father in the flesh did this, thou wouldest think shame of the thing. If thy spiritual father be compelled so to do, wilt thou not veil thy head, and even think thou art sinking into the earth? It is written, “A father’s dishonor is a reproach to the children.” (Si 3,11). But what? Should he perish with famine? This were not like a pious man; for God willeth it not. But what do they straightway philosophize? It is written, say they, “Get you no gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, neither two coats, nor yet staves” (Mt 10,9-10), whilst these men have three or four garments, and beds well spread. I am forced now to heave a bitter sigh, and, but that it had been indecorous, I had wept too! How so? Because we are such curious searchers into the motes of others, while we feel not the beams in our own eyes. Tell me, why sayest thou not this to thyself? The answer is, Because the command is laid only on our Teachers. When then Paul says, “having food and covering we shall be therewith content” (1Tm 6,8), says he this only to Teachers? By no means, but to all men; and this is clear, if we will begin farther back. For what does he say? “Godliness with contentment is great gain (1Tm 6,6); for we brought nothing into this world, it is certain that neither can we carry anything out” (1Tm 6,7); he then straightway adds, “And having food and covering, we shall be therewith content; but they that desire to be rich, fall into a temptation and a snare, and many foolish and hurtful lusts.” (1Tm 6,8-9). You see that this is spoken to all; and how is it when he says again, “Make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rm 13,14), is not this said absolutely to all? and what when he says, “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats, but God shall bring to nought both it and them” (1Co 6,13); or what when he says, “But she that giveth herself to pleasure, is dead while she liveth” (1Tm 5,6), speaking of a widow. Is then the widow a Teacher? Has not he said himself, “But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man”? (1Tm 2,12).
905 But if a widow, in old age, (and age has need of great attendance,) and a woman’s nature too, (for the woman’s sex, being weak, has need of more refreshment,) if then, where there is both the age and the nature, he suffers her not to live in luxury, but even says that she is dead, (for he did not simply forbid a life of luxury, but said, “she who giveth herself to luxury is dead while she liveth,”) and thus hath cut her off, (for she that is dead is cut off,) what indulgence then will any man have, who does those things, for which a woman and an aged one too is punished?
Yet no one gives a thought to these things, no one searches them out. And this I have been compelled to say, not from any wish to free the priests from these charges, but to spare you. They indeed suffer no harm at your hands, even if it is with cause and justice that they are thus charged of being greedy of gain; for, whether ye speak, or whether ye forbear, they must there give an account to the Judge, so that your words hurt them not at all; but if your words are false besides, they for their part gain by these false accusations, whilst ye hurt yourselves by these means. But it is not so with you; for be the things true, which ye bring against them, or be they false, ye speak ill of them to your hurt. And how so? If they be true, in that ye judge your Teachers, and subvert order, ye do it to your hurt. For if we must not judge a brother, much less a Teacher. But if they be false, the punishment and retribution is intolerable; for of “every idle word ye shall give account.” (Mt 12,36) For your sake then I thus act and labor.
But as I said, no one searches out these things, no one busies himself about these things, no one communes with himself on any of these things. Would ye that I should add still more? “Whosoever forsaketh not all that he hath, saith the Christ, is not worthy of Me.” (Lc 14,33 Mt 10,37). What when he says, “It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven”? (Mt 19,23 Mc 10,24). What when he says again, “Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation”? (Lc 6,24). No one searches this out, no one bears it in mind, no one reasons with himself, but all sit as severe inquisitors on other men’s cases. Yet this is to make themselves sharers in the charges. But listen, that for your own sake I may free the priests from the charges, which ye say lie against them, for the persuasion that they transgress the law of God, inclines you not a little towards evil. Come then, let us examine this matter. Christ said, “Provide neither gold nor silver, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor girdle, nor yet staves.” (Mt 10,9-10). What then? tell me, did Peter transgress this command? Surely he did so, in having a girdle and a garment, and shoes, for listen to the words of the Angel, “Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals.” (Ac 12,8) And yet he had no such great need of sandals, for at that season a man may go even unshod; their great use is in the winter, and yet he had them. What shall we say of Paul, when he writes thus to Timothy, “Do thy diligence to come before winter”? (2Tm 4,21). He gives him orders too and says, “The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus bring when thou comest, and the books, especially the parchments.” (2Tm 4,13). See he speaks of a cloak, and no one can say that he had not another which he wore; for if he did not wear one at all, it were superfluous to order this one to be brought, and if he could not be without one to wear, it is clear he had a second.
What shall we say of his remaining “two whole years in his own hired dwelling”? (Ac 28,30). Did then this chosen vessel disobey Christ? this man who said, “Yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me” (Ga 2,20), concerning whom Christ testified, saying, “He is a chosen vessel unto Me”? (Ac 9,15). I ought to leave this difficulty with you, without supplying any solution to the question. I ought to exact of you this penalty for your negligence in the Scriptures, for this is the origin of all such difficulties. For we know not the Scriptures, we are not trained in the law of God, and so we become sharp inquirers into the faults of others, whilst we take no account of our own. I ought then to have exacted from you this penalty. But what shall I do? Fathers freely give to their sons many things beyond what is fitting: when their fatherly compassion is kindled, on seeing their child with downcast look, and wasted with grief, they themselves also feel sharper pangs than he, and rest not until they have removed the ground of his dejection.
So be it at least here, be ye at least dejected at not receiving, that ye may receive well.
906 What then is it? They opposed not, far be it; but diligently followed the commands of Christ, for those commands were but for a season, and not enduring; and this I say not from conjecture, but from the divine Scriptures. And how? Lc relates that Christ said to His disciples, “When I sent you forth without purse, and wallet, and girdle, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said nothing. (Lc 22,35). But for the future provide them.” But tell me, what could he do? could he have but one coat? How then? If need was that this be washed, should he, because without it, stay at home? should he without it go abroad in an unbecoming manner, when need called? Consider what a thing it would have been that Paul, who made the circuit of the world with such great success, should remain at home for want of raiment, and thus hinder his noble work. And what if violent cold had set in, or rain had drenched it, or perhaps frozen in, how could he dry his raiment? must he again remain without it? And what if cold had deprived his body of strength? must he waste away with disease, and be unable to speak? For hear what be says to Timothy, to prove that they were not furnished with adamantine bodies, “Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake, and thine often infirmities.” (1Tm 5,23). And again, when he speaks of another, “I counted it necessary to send to you your messenger, and minister to my needs.” (Ph 2,25). “For indeed he was sick, nigh unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but on me also.” (Ph 2,27). So that they were subject to every sort of sickness. What then? must they die? By no means. For what cause then did Christ at that time give them that command? To show His own power, and to prove that in after times He was able to do it, though He did it not. But wherefore did He not do it? They were much more admirable than the Israelites, whose shoes did not wax old, neither their garments, and that too whilst they were journeying through that desert where the glowing rays of the sun strike so hot, that they are capable of consuming even stones. (Ref. to (Dt 29,5). Why then did he do this? For thy sake. For since thou wouldest not remain in health, but be full of wounds, He gave you that which might serve for medicine. And this is hence manifest; could He not Himself have fed them? He that gave to thee, who wast an enemy with Him, would He not much more have given to Paul? He who gave to the Israelites, those murmurers, those fornicators, those idolaters, would He not much more have given to Peter, who spent all for His sake? He who suffered wicked men to possess aught, would He not much more have freely given to John, who for Him forsook even his father? Yet he would not: through your hands he feeds them, that you may be sanctified. And see the excess of His lovingkindness. He chose that His disciples should be in want, that thou mightest be a little refreshed.
For if He had freed them from all want, they would have been much more admirable, far more glorious. But then that which is to thee salvation would have been cut off. God willed not then that they should be admirable, that thou mightest be saved, but that they should rather be lowered. He hath suffered them to be less accounted of, that thou mightest be able to be saved. The Teacher who receiveth is not equally reverenced, but he who receives not is chiefly honored. But then in the latter case the disciple is not benefited, he is hindered of his fruit. Seest thou the wisdom of God who thus loveth man? For as He Himself sought not His own glory, nor had respect to Himself, but when He was in glory, chose to be dishonored for thy sake, thus too is it in the case of your Teachers. When they might have been highly reverenced, He preferred that they should be subject to contempt for thy sake, that thou mightest be able to profit, that thou mightest be able to be rich. For he is in want of the things of this life, that you may abound in things spiritual. If then He might have made them above all want, He showed that for thy sake He suffers them to be in want. Knowing then these things, let us turn ourselves to well doing, not to accusations. Let us not be overcurious about the failings of others, but take account of our own; let us reckon up the excellences of other men, while we bear in mind our faults; and thus shall we be well pleasing to God. For he who looks at the faults of others, and at his own excellences, is injured in two ways; by the latter he is carried up to arrogance, through the former he falls into listlessness. For when he perceives that such an one hath sinned, very easily will he sin himself; when he perceives that he hath in aught excelled, very easily becometh he arrogant. He who consigns to oblivion his own excellences, and looks at his failings only, whilst he is a curious enquirer of the excellences, not the sins, of others, is profited in many ways. And how? When he sees that such an one hath done excellently, he is raised to emulate the same; when he sees that he himself hath sinned, he is rendered humble and modest. If we act thus, if we thus regulate ourselves, we shall be able to obtain the good things which are promised, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, &c.
Chrysostom Philippians 800