Clement of Alexandria: Don’t judge who is worthy or unworthy? Give mercifully!

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Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Luke 6:30

“How then does man give these things? For I will give not only to friends, but to the friends of friends. And who is it that is the friend of God? Do not judge who is worthy or who is unworthy. For it is possible you may be mistaken in your opinion. As in the uncertainty of ignorance it is better to do good to the undeserving for the sake of the deserving, than by guarding against those that are less good to fail to meet in with the good. For though sparing, and aiming at testing, who will receive meritoriously or not, it is possible for you to neglect some that are loved by God.”

Clement of Alexandria (150-215) in Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? XXXIII. Translated by William Wilson, from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2., edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.

Clement was a Christian theologian who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. His three major surviving works are Protrepticus (Exhortation) which exhorted pagans to adopt Christianity, Paedagogus (Tutor) which presents Christ as our Teacher and calls people to respond authentically and personally to the love of God, and Stromata (Miscellanies) which, as it sounds, contains miscellaneous teachings.

In Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? Clement grapples with the hard teachings of Jesus directed to the rich. As this treatise relates directly to generosity, we will explore a number of statements from this classic work this Advent.

In this post, Clement addresses the striking statement in today’s Scripture reading and urges listeners to obey because we should not judge lest we be mistaken but to be generous to all.¬†Think about the implications of this as we await the coming of our Lord during Advent. Were any of us worthy of the salvation accomplished through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Of course not. In the world givers judge who is worthy and unworthy. We must adopt higher thinking. I am praying this Advent that God’s people will unleash rich generosity following the instructions of Jesus and not anyone’s claims of merit. While Clement calls us to do good even to the undeserving, notice where he gets this idea, the verses that follow today’s text.

Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:31-36

Don’t judge who is worthy or unworthy? Give mercifully!