Matt. 6:25-34 (Part 2)

CYPRIAN: Are you afraid that your patrimony perhaps may fall short, if you should begin to do liberally from it? Yet when has it ever happened that resources could fail the righteous man, since it is written, “The Lord will not slay with famine the righteous soul?”  Elijah in the desert is fed by the ministry of ravens; and a meal from heaven is made ready for Daniel in the den, when shut up by the king’s command for a prey to the lions; and you are afraid that food should be wanting to you, laboring and deserving well of the Lord, although He Himself in the Gospel bears witness, for the rebuke of those whose mind is doubtful and faith small, and says: “Behold the birds of heaven, that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feeds them: are you not of more value than they?” God feeds the birds, and daily food is afforded to the sparrows; and to creatures which have no sense of things divine there is no want of drink or food. Do you think that to a Christian —do you think that to a servant of the Lord—do you think that to one given up to good works—do you think that to one that is dear to his Lord, anything will be lacking? The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.479.

6:27 TERTULLIAN: Seeing, then, man’s own reflections, even in spite of the sweetness of pleasure, lead him to think that people such as these should be condemned to a unfortunate lot of infamy, losing all the advantages connected with the possession of the dignities of life, how much more does the divine righteousness inflict punishment on those who give themselves to these arts! Will God have any pleasure in the charioteer who disquiets so many souls, rouses up so many furious passions, and creates so many various moods, either crowned like a priest or wearing the colors of a pimp, decked out by the devil that he may be whirled away in his chariot, as though with the object of taking off Elijah? Will He be pleased with him who applies the razor to himself, and completely changes his features; who, with no respect for his face, is not content with making it as like as possible to Saturn and Isis and Bacchus, but gives it quietly over to insulting blows, as if in mockery of our Lord? The devil makes it part of his teaching that the cheek is to be meekly offered to the smiter. In the same way, with their high shoes, he has made the tragic actors taller, because “none can add a cubit to his stature.” His desire is to make Christ a liar. The Shows, 3.89.

6:30 CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Then he who has lied and shown himself unfaithful, and revolted to the devil’s army, in what evil do we think him to be? He belies, therefore, the Lord, or rather he is cheated of his own hope who does not believe God; and he does not believe who does not do what He has commanded.

And what? Does not he, who denies the Lord, deny himself? For does he not rob his Master of His authority, who deprives himself of his relation to Him? He, then, who denies the Savior, denies life; for “the light was life.”  He does not term those “men of little faith,” but faithless and hypocrites, who have the name inscribed on them, but deny that they are really believers. But the faithful is called both servant and friend. The Stromata, 2.416-417.

6:31ff CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: “Do not take thought for your life, what you shall eat; neither for your body, what you shall put on. For your life is more than food, and your body than clothing.” And again, “For your Father knows that you have need of all these things.” “But seek first the kingdom of heaven, and its righteousness,” for these are the great things, and the things which are small and relate to this life “shall be added to you.” Does He not plainly then exhort us to follow the Christian life, and enjoin us to seek the truth in word and deed? Therefore Christ, who trains the soul, reckons one rich, not by his gifts, but by his choice. It is said, therefore, that Zaccheus, or, according to some, Matthew, the chief of the publicans, on hearing that the Lord had consented to come to him, said, “Lord, and if I have taken anything by false accusation, I restore him fourfold;” on which the Savior said, “The Son of man, on coming today, has found that which was lost.”  Again, on seeing the rich cast into the treasury according to their wealth, and the widow two mites, He said “that the widow had cast in more than they all,” for “they had contributed of their abundance, but she of her destitution.”  The Stromata, 2.415.

CYPRIAN: For daily bread cannot be wanting to the righteous man, since it is written, “The Lord will not slay the soul of the righteous by hunger;”  and again, “I have been young and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread.”  And the Lord moreover promises and says, “Take no thought, saying, ‘What will we eat, or what will we drink, or how will we be clothed?’ For after all these things do the nations seek. And your Father knows that you have need of all these things. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” To those who seek God’s kingdom and righteousness, He promises that all things will be added. For since all things are God’s, nothing will be wanting to him who possesses God, if God Himself is not lacking to him.
The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.453.

CYPRIAN: He calls those the children of Abraham whom He sees to be laborious in aiding and nourishing the poor. For when Zacchaeus said, “Behold, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have done any wrong to any man, I restore fourfold,” Jesus answered and said, “That salvation has this day come to this house, for that he also is a son of Abraham.”  For if Abraham believed in God, and it was counted to him for righteousness, certainly he who gives alms according to God’s precept believes in God, and he who has the truth of faith maintains the fear of God; moreover, he who maintains the fear of God considers God in showing mercy to the poor. For he labors thus because he believes—because he knows that what is foretold by God’s word is true, and that the Holy Scripture cannot lie—that unfruitful trees, that is, unproductive men, are cut off and cast into the fire, but that the merciful are called into the kingdom.  He also, in another place, calls laborious and fruitful men faithful; but He denies faith to unfruitful and barren ones, saying, “If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to you that which is true? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” 

If you dread and fear, lest, if you begin to act thus abundantly, your patrimony being exhausted with your liberal dealing, you may perchance be reduced to poverty; be of good courage in this respect, be free from care: that cannot be exhausted from which the service of Christ is supplied, from which the heavenly work is celebrated. Neither do I vouch for this on my own authority; but I promise it on the faith of the Holy Scriptures, and on the authority of the divine promise. The Holy Spirit speaks by Solomon, and says, “He that gives to the poor shall never lack, but he that turns away his eye shall be in great poverty;”  showing that the merciful and those who do good works cannot lack, but rather that the sparing and barren hereafter come to lack. . . . And the Lord in the Gospel, already considering the hearts of men of this kind, and with prophetic voice denouncing faithless and unbelieving men, bears witness, and says: “Do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or, 'What will we drink?' or, 'How shall we be clothed?' For these things the Gentiles seek. And your Father knows that you have need of all these things. Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” He says that all these things shall be added and given to them who seek the kingdom and righteousness of God. For the Lord says, that when the day of judgment shall come, those who have labored in His Church are admitted to receive the kingdom. The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.478.

6:32ff CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Now pride and luxury make men waverers (or raise them aloft) from the truth; and the voluptuousness, which indulges in excess, leads away from the truth. Therefore He says very beautifully, “And all these things do the nations of the world seek after.” The nations are the dissolute and the foolish. And what are these things which He specifies? Luxury, voluptuousness, rich cooking, dainty feeding, gluttony.  These are the “What?” And of bare sustenance, dry and moist, as being necessaries, He says, “Your Father knows that you need these.” And if, in a word, we are naturally given to seeking, let us not destroy the faculty of seeking by directing it to luxury, but let us excite it to the discovery of truth. For He says, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and the materials of sustenance will be added to you.” If, then, He takes away anxious care for clothes and food, and superfluities in general, as unnecessary; what are we to imagine ought to be said of love of ornament, and dyeing of wool, and variety of colors, and fastidiousness about gems, and exquisite working of gold, and still more, of artificial hair and wreathed curls; and furthermore, of staining the eyes, and plucking out hairs, and painting with rouge and white lead, and dyeing of the hair, and the wicked arts that are employed in such deceptions? The Instructor, 2.264.

6:33 CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: But you also oppose Scripture, seeing it expressly cries, “Seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all these things shall be added to you.” But if all things have been conferred on you, and all things allowed you, and “if all things are lawful, yet all things are not expedient,”  says the apostle. God brought our race into communion by first imparting what was His own, when He gave His own Word, common to all, and made all things for all. All things therefore are common, and not for the rich to appropriate an undue share. That expression, therefore, “I possess, and possess in abundance: why then should I not enjoy?” is suitable neither to the man, nor to society. But more worthy of love is that: “I have: why should I not give to those who need?” For such an one—one who fulfills the command, “Love your neighbor as yourself” —is perfect. For this is the true luxury—the treasured wealth. But that which is squandered on foolish lusts is to be reckoned waste, not expenditure. For God has given to us, I know well, the liberty of use, but only so far as necessary; and He has determined that the use should be common. And it is monstrous for one to live in luxury, while many are in want. How much more glorious is it to do good to many, than to live sumptuously! How much wiser to spend money on human beings, than on jewels and gold! How much more useful to acquire decent friends, than lifeless ornaments! Whom have lands ever benefited so much as conferring favors has? It remains for us, therefore, to do away with this allegation: Who, then, will have the more sumptuous things, if all select the simpler? Men, I would say, if they make use of them impartially and indifferently. But if it be impossible for all to exercise self-restraint, yet, with a view to the use of what is necessary, we must seek after what can be most readily procured, bidding a long farewell to these superfluities. The Instructor, 2.268.

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