Matt. 6:19-21 (Part 1)

6:19ff IGNATIUS: Let your treasures be your good works, that you may receive the gift of God, as is just. Epistle of Polycarp, 1.100.

HERMAS: He says to me, “You know that you who are the servants of God dwell in a strange land; for your city is far away from this one. If, then,” he continues, “you know your city in which you are to dwell, why do you provide lands here, and make expensive preparations, and accumulate dwellings and useless buildings? He who makes such preparations for this city cannot return again to his own. Oh foolish, and unstable, and miserable man! Do you not understand that all these things belong to another, and are under the power of another? For the lord of this city will say, ‘I do not wish for you to dwell in my city; but depart from this city, because you do not obey my laws.’ You, therefore, although having fields and houses, and many other things, when cast out by him, what will you do with your land, and house, and other possessions which you have gathered to yourself? For the lord of this country justly says to you, ‘Either obey my laws or depart from my dominion.’ What, then, do you intend to do, having a law in your own city, on account of your lands, and the rest of your possessions? You shall altogether deny your law, and walk according to the law of this city. See lest it be to your hurt to deny your law; for if you shall desire to return to your city, you will not be received, because you have denied the law of your city, but will be excluded from it. Have a care, therefore: as one living in a foreign land, make no further preparations for yourself than such merely as may be sufficient; and be ready, when the master of this city shall come to cast you out for disobeying his law, to leave his city, and to depart to your own, and to obey your own law without being exposed to annoyance, but in great joy. Have a care, then, you who serve the Lord, and have Him in your heart, that you work the works of God, remembering His commandments and promises which He promised, and believe that He will bring them to pass if His commandments be observed. Instead of lands, therefore, buy afflicted souls, according as each one is able, and visit widows and orphans, and do not overlook them; and spend your wealth and all your preparations, which you received from the Lord, upon such lands and houses. For to this end did the Master make you rich, that you might perform these services to Him; and it is much better to purchase such lands, and possessions, and houses, as you will find in your own city, when you come to reside in it. This is a noble and sacred expenditure, attended neither with sorrow nor fear, but with joy. Do not practice the expenditure of the heathen, for it is injurious to you who are the servants of God; but practice an expenditure of your own, in which you can rejoice; and do not corrupt nor touch what is another’s nor covet it, for it is an evil thing to covet the goods of other men; but work your own work, and you will be saved.” The Shepherd of Hermas, 2.31-32.

JUSTIN MARTYR: And that we should share with the needy, and do nothing for glory, He said, “Give to him that asks, and from him that would borrow do not turn away; for if you lend to them of whom you hope to receive, what new thing do you do? Even the publicans do this. Do not store up for yourselves treasure upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where robbers break through; but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for it? Lay up treasure, therefore, in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt.” The First Apology, 1.167.

JUSTIN MARTYR: The wealthy among us help the needy. . . . And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who supports the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. The First Apology, 1.185-186.

IRENAEUS: “For we have been counted,” says the Apostle Paul, “all the day long as sheep for the slaughter;” that is, consecrated to God, and ministering continually to our faith, and persevering in it, and abstaining from all avarice, and not acquiring or possessing treasures upon earth. Moreover, the Sabbath of God, that is, the kingdom, was, as it were, indicated by created things; in which kingdom, the man who shall have persevered in serving God shall, in a state of rest, partake of God’s table. Against Heresies, 1.481.

TATIAN: Do not be agitated, little flock; for your Father has delighted to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give in alms; take to yourselves purses that do not wax old. Do not lay up treasure on earth, where moth and worm corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and worm do not corrupt, nor thieves break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. The Diatessaron, 9.58.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: The good man, being temperate and just, treasures up his wealth in heaven. He who has sold his worldly goods, and given them to the poor, finds the imperishable treasure, “where is neither moth nor robber.” Blessed truly is he, “though he be insignificant, and feeble, and obscure;” and he is truly rich with the greatest of all riches. “Though a man, then, be richer than Cinyras and Midas, and is wicked,” and haughty as he who was luxuriously clothed in purple and fine linen, and despised Lazarus, “he is miserable, and lives in trouble,” and shall not live. Wealth seems to me to be like a serpent, which will twist round the hand and bite; unless one knows how to lay hold of it without danger by the point of the tail. And riches, wriggling either in an experienced or inexperienced grasp, are dexterous at adhering and biting; unless one, despising them, use them skilfully, so as to crush the creature by the charm of the Word, and himself escape unscathed. The Instructor, 2.280.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: We have no country on earth, that we may despise earthly possessions. The Instructor, 2.281.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: “Do not lay up for yourselves, therefore, treasures on the earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break through and steal,” says the Lord, in reproach perchance of the covetous, and perchance also of those who are simply anxious and full of cares, and those too who indulge their bodies. For lovers, and diseases, and evil thoughts “break through” the mind and the whole man. But our true “treasure” is where what is allied to our mind is, since it bestows the communicative power of righteousness, showing that we must assign to the habit of our old conversation what we have acquired by it, and have recourse to God, beseeching mercy. He is, in truth, “the bag that does not wax old,” the provisions of eternal life, “the treasure that does not fail in heaven.”  “For I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,”  says the Lord. And they say those things to those who wish to be poor for righteousness’ sake. For they have heard in the commandment that “the broad and wide way leads to destruction, and many there are who go in by it.” It is not of anything else that the assertion is made, but of extravagance, and love of women, and love of glory, and ambition, and similar passions. For so He says, “Fool, this night shall your soul be required of you; and whose shall those things be which you have prepared?”  And the commandment is expressed in these very words, “Take heed, therefore, of covetousness. For a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of those things which he possesses. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”  The Stromata, 2.415

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Accordingly he has not forbidden us to be rich in the right way, but only a wrongful and insatiable grasping of money. For “property gained unlawfully is diminished.”  “There are some who sow much and gain the more, and those who hoard become impoverished.”  Of them it is written: “He distributed, he gave to the poor, his righteousness endures for ever.”  For he who sows and gathers more is the man who by giving away his earthly and temporal goods has obtained a heavenly and eternal prize; the other is he who gives to no one, but vainly “lays up treasure on earth where moth and rust corrupt;” of him it is written: “In gathering income, he has gathered it into a condemned cell.” Of his land the Lord says in the gospel that it produced plentifully; then wishing to store the fruits he built larger store-houses, saying to himself in the words dramatically put into his mouth “You have many good things laid up for many years to come, eat, drink, and be merry. You fool,”  says the Lord, “this night your soul shall be required of you. Whose then shall be the things you have prepared?”
 On Marriage.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: For God has provided for us another life, and made the present life the way for the course which leads to it; appointing the supplies derived from what we possess merely as provisions for the way; and on our quitting this way, the wealth, consisting of the things which we possessed, journeys no farther with us. For not a single thing that we possess is properly our own: of one possession alone, that is godliness, are we properly owners. Of this, death, when it overtakes us, will not rob us; but from all else it will eject us. Fragments, 2.577.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Perhaps the reason of salvation appearing more difficult to the rich than to poor men, is not single but manifold. For some, merely hearing, and that in an off-hand way, the utterance of the Savior, “that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven,”  despair of themselves as not destined to live, surrender all to the world, cling to the present life as if it alone was left to them, and so diverge more from the way to the life to come, no longer inquiring either whom the Lord and Master calls rich, or how that which is impossible to man becomes possible to God. But others rightly and adequately comprehend this, but attaching slight importance to the works which tend to salvation, do not make the requisite preparation for attaining to the objects of their hope. And I affirm both of these things of the rich who have learned both the Savior’s power and His glorious salvation. . . .

He indeed grants to those who beg, and teaches those who ask, and dissipates ignorance and dispels despair, by introducing again the same words about the rich, which become their own interpreters and infallible expounders. For there is nothing like listening again to the very same statements, which till now in the Gospels were distressing you, hearing them as you did without examination, and erroneously through childishness:

“And going forth into the way, one approached and kneeled, saying, 'Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may inherit everlasting life?'

“And Jesus said, 'Why do you call Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. You know the commandments. Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and your mother.'

“And he answering said to Him, 'All these I have observed.'

“And Jesus, looking upon him, loved him, and said, 'One thing you lack. If you would be perfect, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me.' And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he was rich, having great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and said to His disciples, 'How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!' And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again, and said to them, 'Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! More easily shall a camel enter through the eye of a needle than a rich man into the kingdom of God.'

“And they were astonished out of measure, and said, 'Who then can be saved?'

“And He, looking upon them, said, 'What is impossible with men is possible with God. For with God all things are possible.'

“Peter began to say to Him, 'Look, we have left all and followed You.'

“And Jesus answered and said, 'Truly I say to you, Whoever leaves what is his own, parents, and brethren, and possessions, for My sake and the Gospel’s, shall receive an hundred-fold now in this world, lands, and possessions, and house, and brethren, with persecutions; and in the world to come is life everlasting. But many that are first shall be last, and the last first.’”  . . .

Jesus, accordingly, does not charge him with not having fulfilled all things out of the law, but loves him, and fondly welcomes his obedience in what he had learned; but says that he is not perfect as respects eternal life, inasmuch as he had not fulfilled what is perfect, and that he is a doer indeed of the law, but idle at the true life. Those things, indeed, are good. Who denies it? For the commandment is holy,”  as far as a sort of training with fear and preparatory discipline goes, leading as it did to the culmination of legislation and to grace.

But Christ is the fulfillment “of the law for righteousness to every one that believes;”  and not as a slave making slaves, but sons, and brethren, and fellow- heirs, who perform the Father’s will.

“If you will be perfect.”  Consequently he was not yet perfect. For nothing is more perfect than what is perfect. And divinely the expression “if you will” showed the self-determination of the soul holding converse with Him. For choice depended on the man as being free; but the gift on God as the Lord. And He gives to those who are willing and are exceedingly earnest, and ask, so that their salvation may become their own. For God does not compel (for compulsion is repugnant to God), but supplies to those who seek, and bestows on those who ask, and opens to those who knock. If you will, then, if you really will, and are not deceiving yourself, acquire what you lack. One thing is lacking to you,—the one thing which abides, the good, that which is now above the law, which the law does not give, which the law does not contain, which is the prerogative of those who live. He indeed who had fulfilled all the demands of the law from his youth, and had gloried in what was magnificent, was not able to complete the whole with this one thing which was specially required by the Savior, so as to receive the eternal life which he desired. But he departed displeased, vexed at the commandment of the life, on account of which he supplicated. For he did not truly wish life, as he asserted, but aimed at the mere reputation of the good choice. And he was capable of busying himself about many things; but the one thing, the work of life, he was powerless, and disinclined, and unable to accomplish.
Who is the Rich Man that Shall Be Saved? 2.591-594.

© OTR 2023