Monday, May 27, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Treasures of the Heart

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.
"But he who carries his riches in his soul, and instead of God’s Spirit bears in his heart gold or land, and is always acquiring possessions without end, and is perpetually on the outlook for more, bending downwards and fettered in the toils of the world, being earth and destined to depart to earth,—whence can he be able to desire and to mind the kingdom of heaven,—a man who carries not a heart, but land or metal, who must perforce be found in the midst of the objects he has chosen? For where the mind of man is, there is also his treasure." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich, Chapter 17)
Our problem is not with that which we possess but rather with that which we treasure. Clement reminds us that where a man's mind is there his treasure will be; making no distinction between heart and mind as both represent the inward person of the soul. A man may be rich yet still treasure the Lord, or a man may be poor and yet treasure riches. Either way, it is not the possessions that matter, but rather what each person desires; what they treasure; be it the Lord and His Kingdom or be it things of this world, those things that are passing away.

Clement also reminds us of the words of our Lord, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart." (Luke 6:45) Treasures are found in our heart and it is out of them that our lives either produce good or evil. We decide what kinds treasures we pursue and fill our hearts with; one kind of treasures leading to destruction, the other leading to life.
"As then treasure is not one with Him, as also it is with us, that which gives the unexpected great gain in the finding, but also a second, which is profitless and undesirable, an evil acquisition, hurtful; so also there is a richness in good things, and a richness in bad things, since we know that riches and treasure are not by nature separated from each other. And the one sort of riches is to be possessed and acquired, and the other not to be possessed, but to be cast away." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 17)
One kind of treasure we are to pursue with all our heart, and the other we are to rid ourselves of that we might find life. If we are treasuring the things of this world, then we are already dead even as we live. If we are treasuring the things of the Kingdom of God, then we already possess eternal life. Our goal in this life should be to learn how to be poor in spirit and rich in God. Poor in the passions that wage war against the soul but rich in the virtues of the Kingdom of God.
"In the same way spiritual poverty is blessed. Wherefore also Matthew added, 'Blessed are the poor.' How? 'in spirit.' And again, 'Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God.' Wherefore wretched are the contrary kind of poor, who have no part in God, and still less in human property, and have not tasted of the righteousness of God." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 17)
What are the things that you treasure? Are they the things of this world or the things of God's Kingdom? One will make you a rich young ruler, the other will give you life, be you poor or rich.

David Robison

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