Friday, May 24, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Money is neither good or evil

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book on the Salvation of the Rich Man. If you are unfamiliar with Clement or his book, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.
"Riches, then, which benefit also our neighbours, are not to be thrown away. For they are possessions, inasmuch as they are possessed, and goods, inasmuch as they are useful and provided by God for the use of men; and they lie to our hand, and are put under our power, as material and instruments which are for good use to those who know the instrument." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 14)
Money and riches, or the lack there of, are not our real problem. They neither commend or condemn us before God. Money does not make us righteous as much as poverty makes us evil. The Apostle Paul did not say that money was the root of all evil but rather, "the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil." (1 Timothy 6:10) Money is neither good or evil, it just is.
"If you use it skilfully, it is skilful; if you are deficient in skill, it is affected by your want of skill, being itself destitute of blame. Such an instrument is wealth. Are you able to make a right use of it? It is subservient to righteousness. Does one make a wrong use of it? It is, on the other hand, a minister of wrong. For its nature is to be subservient, not to rule. That then which of itself has neither good nor evil, being blameless, ought not to be blamed; but that which has the power of using it well and ill, by reason of its possessing voluntary choice." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 14)
What makes money appear to be good or evil is the manner in which it is used, and the difference between the good and evil use of money is determined by the one who uses it. If one uses it for righteous purposes, then money appears to be good, but if one uses it for evil purposes, then it appears to be evil. However, in both cases, money itself is indifferent and innocent, it is the user that must bear the judgement not money. We chose how we use our money and therefor it is us who should receive the blame or praise for its use, not the money itself.

Money is neither good or evil, so we must not interpret Jesus' words to the rich young ruler as commanding all of us to divest ourselves of all our wealth and worldly possessions.
"So let no man destroy wealth, rather than the passions of the soul, which are incompatible with the better use of wealth. So that, becoming virtuous and good, he may be able to make a good use of these riches. The renunciation, then, and selling of all possessions, is to be understood as spoken of the passions of the soul." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 14)
It's not our wealth that we must get rid of but rather the passions of the soul that wages war against the spirit. For some, like the rich young ruler, ridding themselves of the passions of their soul may first require them to remove some of the "stuff" that those passions feed upon. Our lust for wealth can feed off our many riches and we may have to become poor before we are able to finally deal with the lust in our hearts. However, either way, the root cause of our troubles is not our riches but our heart. Here is where the real trouble lies.

David Robison

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