Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - God is not Mean

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 I think that our proposition has been demonstrated in no way inferior to what we promised, that the Saviour by no means has excluded the rich on account of wealth itself, and the possession of property, nor fenced off salvation against them; if they are able and willing to submit their life to God’s commandments, and prefer them to transitory objects, and if they would look to the Lord with steady eye, as those who look for the nod of a good helmsman, what he wishes, what he orders, what he indicates, what signal he gives his mariners, where and whence he directs the ship’s course." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 26)
Clement is at the halfway point in his dissertation on the rich and summarizes what he has taught to this point, that the Rich are not excluded from salvation and that riches themselves are not our enemy. All who are willing and able to submit themselves to God, willing to prefer eternal things to the temporal, and who are willing to stand in obedience before their maker are welcomed by God and God will freely crown them with His salvation. All are welcome, rich and poor, great and small, intelligent and simple, all are welcome. Otherwise, if God were to bar the rich from salvation because of their riches alone, then God is to be impugned as the one who gave them their riches, abilities, and talents.
"For what harm does one do, who, previous to faith, by applying his mind and by saving has collected a competency? Or what is much less reprehensible than this, if at once by God, who gave him his life, he has had his home given him in the house of such men, among wealthy people, powerful in substance, and pre-eminent in opulence? For if, in consequence of his involuntary birth in wealth, a man is banished from life, rather is he wronged by God, who created him, in having vouchsafed to him temporary enjoyment, and in being deprived of eternal life. And why should wealth have ever sprung from the earth at all, if it is the author and patron of death?" (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich, Chapter 26)
Why would God have created wealth if He knew it to be the cause of spiritual death, or why would God will that some be born into wealth if such wealth would be the cause of their demise? God is not unjust as to give and then judge; to make rich and then condemn. While the rich may face their own particular challenges in this world, they are nonetheless not restricted from obtaining heavenly enjoyments in Christ. Jesus' message to the rich, as Clement sees it, to this point in the story, is,
"Well, first let the point of the parable, which is evident, and the reason why it is spoken, be presented. Let it teach the prosperous that they are not to neglect their own salvation, as if they had been already fore-doomed, nor, on the other hand, to cast wealth into the sea, or condemn it as a traitor and an enemy to life, but learn in what way and how to use wealth and obtain life." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich, Chapter 27)
From here, Clement moves on to aide the rich in understanding how to use their wealth in a godly manor, but that will have to wait till later.

David Robison

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