Saturday, February 15, 2014

Purpusful wealth - The Instructor on Christians alone are rich

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.
"Riches are then to be partaken of rationally, bestowed lovingly, not sordidly, or pompously; nor is the love of the beautiful to be turned into self-love and ostentation; lest perchance some one say to us, "His horse, or land, or domestic, or gold, is worth fifteen talents; but the man himself is dear at three coppers.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 6)
Wealth should be approached rationally and with purpose rather than emotionally and for the purpose of spending it on our every impulse and desire. Wealth is not good or evil, it is amoral. What makes wealth good or evil is how we use it. Do we spend it on our self-love and our "love of show" or do we use it for the benefit others because we love them above ourselves? We spend our wealth on what we value. Unfortunately, for some, what we value is "stuff". Too often we see ourselves and things as being of greater value than other human beings. If we would stop to recognize the true value of others, as also being those where were created by God, then we would treat our wealth very differently; our wealth would take on a whole new purpose. We would understand that, as those to whom He has entrusted His wealth, He has not done so that they might satisfy our own lusts and desires, but that we may be the ones who come to the aid of the poor and needy, that we may be the arms of God's grace to those in need around us.
"This best of maxims, then, ought to be perpetually repeated, 'That the good man, being temperate and just,' treasures up his wealth in heaven. He who has sold his worldly goods, and given them to the poor, finds the imperishable treasure, 'where is neither moth nor robber.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 6)
A maxim is a fundamental truth that is true everywhere and for everyone. It is not relative nor does it change with the times or circumstances. It is always and everywhere true. This "best of maxims" teaches us that true wealth resides in heaven and cannot be purchased and horded here on earth. Worldly wealth pails in comparison to true wealth; one tarnishes, rust, and fades away while the other, "is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." (1 Peter 1:4) A life spent in pursuit of this worlds wealth and riches is a life spend in futility. For worldly possessions may delight for a while, but of what use or value are they when we enter into eternity? Far better to live a life to gain eternal treasures than treasure whose end is certain.
"Wealth seems to me to be like a serpent, which will twist round the hand and bite; unless one knows how to lay hold of it without danger by the point of the tail. And riches, wriggling either in an experienced or inexperienced grasp, are dexterous at adhering and biting; unless one, despising them, use them skilfully, so as to crush the creature by the charm of the Word, and himself escape unscathed." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 6)
Many want to be rich, but how few really know how to be rich? Solomon said, "It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it." (Proverbs 10:22) However, I know many who, though being very rich, have with it great sorrow. Their wealth has not brought them the happiness and enjoyment they wished. Instead it has become a burden that destroys families, relationships, and godly morals. Instead of elevating, it has debased. Instead of making the them great, it has lowered them to the level of their lusts and sordid desires. For the man who does not know how to be rich, riches can be his destruction! Clement likens riches to a snake that twists and bites until it finally destroys its holder. To be rich with no sorrow attached, one must first come to find those things that are of true value and learn to despise worldly wealth. They must learn to treat riches, not as something to obtain and to spend for their own enjoyment, but as a tool to be used for the benefit of many. Wealth is not a measure of our stature, nor is it a means to never having to work again, but it is simply a tool, a tool to be used to extend the grace and love of God to others in need. Wealth is given by God, not as a possession, but as a stewardship. It is God's wealth and we are merely its stewards, to steward it according to His plan and purpose. If we can come to know wealth in this way then safely will we be able to handle it and to avoid its spiteful biting.

David Robison

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