Thursday, May 23, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Keep my possessions?

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.
"And how much more beneficial the opposite case, for a man, through possessing a competency, both not himself to be in straits about money, and also to give assistance to those to whom it is requisite so to do! For if no one had anything, what room would be left among men for giving?" (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 13)
So selling all we have is not the answer, in fact, Clement notes many benefits to being rich. Wealth to those who are rich can bring many blessings and benefits to them and to others in need. Without the wealthy there would be no one to give to the poor. In fact, if we all divested ourselves of all our worldly possession then how could we be obedient to the commands of the Lord to give? Voluntary poverty could lead us to deny the God's word.
"And how can this dogma fail to be found plainly opposed to and conflicting with many other excellent teachings of the Lord? ... 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?" (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 13)
God does not hate riches nor does he condemn the rich. Both the rich and the poor are created by Him and he loves them both. God "gives you the ability to produce wealth" (Deuteronomy 8:18 NIV) and He is not against us finding blessing and benefit in it. Clement continues,
"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 houseless 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." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 13)
Neither giving away everything or keeping everything is the answer because the issue is not in our riches but in our heart; it is our attitude towards riches, our love for riches, our preoccupation with acquiring more riches, and our hording of the riches given to us by God. If we are to understand what Jesus was saying to the rich young ruler then we need to change how we think of money, wealth, and riches. More on this later...

David Robison

No comments:

Post a Comment