Matt. 6:19-21 (Part 2)

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: For if no one had anything, what room would be left among men for giving? And how can this dogma fail to be found plainly opposed to and conflicting with many other excellent teachings of the Lord? “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when you fail, they may receive you into the everlasting habitations.”25 “Acquire treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, nor thieves break through.” How could one give food to the hungry, and drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and shelter the houseless, for not doing which He threatens with fire and the outer darkness, if each man first divested himself of all these things? Nay, He bids Zaccheus and Matthew, the rich tax-gathers, entertain Him hospitably. And He does not bid them part with their property, but, applying the just and removing the unjust judgment, He subjoins, “Today salvation has come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.”26 He so praises the use of property as to enjoin, along with this addition, the giving a share of it, to give drink to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, to take the homeless in, and clothe the naked. But if it is not possible to supply those needs without substance, and He bids people abandon their substance, what else would the Lord be doing than exhorting to give and not to give the same things, to feed and not to feed, to take in and to shut out, to share and not to share? which were the most irrational of all things.
Who is the Rich Man that Shall Be Saved?, 2.594-595.

TERTULLIAN: Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase- money, as of a religion that has its price. On the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he be able: for there is no compulsion; all is voluntary.  These gifts are, as it were, piety’s deposit fund. For they are not taken from there and spent on feasts, and drinking-bouts, and eating-houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined now to the house; such, too, as have suffered shipwreck; and if there happen to be any in the mines, or banished to the islands, or shut up in the prisons, for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God’s Church, they become the nurslings of their confession. But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another. On Idolatry, 3.46.

ORIGEN: In the Gospel it is said that there is a certain treasure on earth where the Lord forbids treasure to be stored up; there is another treasure in heaven where He commands all the faithful to lay up their wealth. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.

COMMODIANUS: If your brother should be weak—I speak of the poor man—do not empty-handed visit such an one as he lies ill. Do good under God; pay your obedience by your money. . . . And, similarly, if your poor sister lies upon a sick- bed, let your matrons begin to carry food to her. God Himself cries out, “Break your bread to the needy.” There is no need to visit with words, but with benefits. It is wicked that your brother should be sick through want of food. Do not satisfy him with words. He needs food and drink. Look upon such assuredly weakened, who are not able to act for themselves. Give to them at once. I pledge my word that fourfold shall be given you by God.
The Instructions of Commodianus in favor of Christian Discipline, Against the Gods of the Heathens, 4.217.

CYPRIAN: Therefore in the Gospel, the Lord, the Teacher of our life and Master of eternal salvation, quickening the assembly of believers, and providing for them for ever when quickened, among His divine commands and precepts of heaven, commands and prescribes nothing more frequently than that we should devote ourselves to almsgiving, and not depend on earthly possessions, but rather lay up heavenly treasures. “Sell,” He says, “your goods, and give alms.”  And again: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust corrupts, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupts, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” And when He wished to set forth a man perfect and complete by the observation of the law, He said, “If you will be perfect, go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.”  Moreover, in another place He says that a merchant of the heavenly grace, and a gainer of eternal salvation, ought to purchase the precious pearl—that is, eternal life—at the price of the blood of Christ, from the amount of his patrimony, parting with all his wealth for it. He says: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchantman seeking goodly pearls. And when he found a precious pearl, he went away and sold all that he had, and bought it.” 5.478.

CYPRIAN: You are wealthy and rich, and do you think that you celebrate the Lord’s Supper, not at all considering the offering, who come to the Lord’s Supper without a sacrifice, and yet take part of the sacrifice which the poor man has offered? Consider in the Gospel the widow that remembered the heavenly precepts, doing good even amidst the difficulties and straits of poverty, casting two mites, which were all that she had, into the treasury; whom when the Lord observed and saw, regarding her work not for its abundance, but for its intention, and considering not how much, but from how much, she had given, He answered and said, “Verily I say to you, that that widow has cast in more than they all into the offerings of God. For all these have, of that which they had in abundance, cast in to the offerings of God; but she of her poverty has cast in all the living that she had.”  Greatly blessed and glorious woman, who even before the day of judgment has merited to be praised by the voice of the Judge! Let the rich be ashamed of their barrenness and unbelief. The widow, the widow needy in means, is found rich in works. And although everything that is given is conferred upon widows and orphans, she gives, whom it behoved to receive, that we may know as a consequence what punishment, awaits the barren rich man, when by this very instance even the poor ought to labor in good works. And in order that we may understand that their labors are given to God, and that whoever performs them deserves well of the Lord, Christ calls this “the offerings of God,” and intimates that the widow has cast in two farthings into the offerings of God, that it may be more abundantly evident that he who has pity on the poor lends to God.

But neither let the consideration, dearest brethren, restrain and recall the Christian from good and righteous works, that any one should fancy that he could be excused for the benefit of his children; since in spiritual expenditure we ought to think of Christ, who has declared that He receives them; and not prefer our fellow-servants, but the Lord, to our children, since He Himself instructs and warns us, saying, “He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  . . . For if we love God with our whole heart, we ought not to prefer either our parents or children to God. And this also John lays down in his epistle, that the love of God is not in them whom we see unwilling to labor for the poor. “Whoever,” he says, “has this world’s goods, and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his bowels from him, how does the love of God dwell in him?”  For if by almsgiving to the poor we are lending to God—and when it is given to the least it is given to Christ—there is no ground for any one preferring earthly things to heavenly, nor for considering human things before divine. . . .

So that from this it may appear how much he sins in the Church, who, preferring himself and his children to Christ, preserves his wealth, and does not share an abundant estate with the poverty of the needy. The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.480-481.

LACTANTIUS: What shall I say of him [a certain pagan] who changed his possessions into money, which he threw into the sea? I doubt whether he was in his senses, or deranged. Away, he says, you evil desires, into the deep. I will cast you away, unless I myself should be cast away by you. If you have so great a contempt for money, employ it in acts of kindness and humanity, bestow it upon the poor; this, which you are about to throw away, may be a help to many others, so that they may not die through famine, or thirst, or nakedness. The Divine Institutes, 7.93.

LACTANTIUS: It is not virtue to seek riches. The Divine Institutes, 7.169.

© OTR 2023