Sunday, June 16, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Make friends with money

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.
"Then to appoint such a reward for liberality,—an everlasting habitation! O excellent trading! O divine merchandise! One purchases immortality for money; and, by giving the perishing things of the world, receives in exchange for these an eternal mansion in the heavens! Sail to this mart, if you are wise, O rich man! If need be, sail round the whole world. Spare not perils and toils, that you may purchase here the heavenly kingdom. Why do transparent stones and emeralds delight thee so much, and a house that is fuel for fire, or a plaything of time, or the sport of the earthquake, or an occasion for a tyrant’s outrage? Aspire to dwell in the heavens, and to reign with God." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 32)
Clement is referring to the promise of our savior, "make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings." (Luke 16:9) There are so many things we could spend our money on, but so few that will return us eternal rewards. If we really understood the power of money why would we spend it on perishable things that are here today and gone tomorrow; things that are destine to chance, depreciation, and ruin? Would we not rather, with all zealousness, spend it on things that hold eternal value? Clement's earnest exhortation is to pursue these things with our money and, specifically, to make friends with our money that these friendships might welcome us into eternal habitations.
"This kingdom a man imitating God will give thee. By receiving a little here, there through all ages He will make thee a dweller with Him. Ask that you may receive; haste; strive; fear lest He disgrace thee. For He is not commanded to receive, but thou to give." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 32)
This is a bold understanding of the words of Jesus and Clement believes them literally. When we make fiends with unrighteous money we purchase for ourselves eternal life. However, Clement understands that Jesus is speaking of something more than simply giving alms.
"The Lord did not say, Give, or bring, or do good, or help, but make a friend. But a friend proves himself such not by one gift, but by long intimacy. For it is neither the faith, nor the love, nor the hope, nor the endurance of one day, but 'he that endureth to the end shall be saved.' " (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 32)
We are really good at giving an offering at Thanksgiving and Christmas but not so good at providing long term care for those in need. However, giving a donation in an offering plate or buying a gift at Christmas, as good as this might be, does not make friends. God's call to the rich is to find those who are conically poor and to become their benefactor and friend. To build a relationship of love with them and to care for them as one of our own family. In this way, the rich and the poor build a relationship together, not only with each other, but also with the Lord. Both of them, in need of what the other has, form a symbiotic relationship which is honoring and pleasing to God. Such a relationship is beautifully described in the Pastor of Hermas,
"The rich man has much wealth, but is poor in matters relating to the Lord, because he is distracted about his riches; and he offers very few confessions and intercessions to the Lord, and those which he does offer are small and weak, and have no power above. But when the rich man refreshes the poor, and assists him in his necessities, believing that what he does to the poor man will be able to find its reward with God—because the poor man is rich in intercession and confession, and his intercession has great power with God—then the rich man helps the poor in all things without hesitation; and the poor man, being helped by the rich, intercedes for him, giving thanks to God for him who bestows gifts upon him... So also poor men interceding with the Lord on behalf of the rich, increase their riches; and the rich, again, aiding the poor in their necessities, satisfy their souls. Both, therefore, are partners in the righteous work." (The Pastor of Hermas, Book Third, Similitude Second)
David Robison

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