Cyprian of Carthage: Christian or Pharisee

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I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Luke 16:9

“Unless you imagine that he who feeds Christ is not himself fed by Christ, or that earthly things will be wanting to those to whom heavenly and divine things are given, whence this unbelieving thought, whence this impious and sacrilegious consideration? What does a faithless heart do in the home of faith? Why is he who does not altogether trust in Christ named and called a Christian? The name of Pharisee is more fitting for you. For when in the Gospel the Lord was discoursing concerning almsgiving, and faithfully and wholesomely warned us to make to ourselves friends of our earthly lucre by provident good works, who might afterwards receive us into eternal dwellings, the Scripture added after this, and said, “But the Pharisees heard all these things, who were very covetous, and they derided Him” [Luke 16:14] Some suchlike we see now in the Church, whose closed ears and darkened hearts admit no light from spiritual and saving warnings, of whom we need not wonder that they contemn the servant in his discourses, when we see the Lord Himself despised by such.”

Cyprian of Carthage (190-258) in his Treatise 8. On Works and Alms, 12.

We show whether we rank among Christians or Pharisees by how we relate to and handle worldly wealth. This statement from Cyprian aims to shock us and get our attention. He adds that in the Church we see people with “closed ears and darkened hearts” and this condition admits “no light from spiritual and saving warnings.”

At times, I can relate to this perspective. I feel my role is prophetic. To call people, myself included, to align with biblical patterns and to remind people of the consequences of disobedience. To hold on to worldly or material wealth on earth or store it up for yourself instead of using it for eternal purposes places you among the Pharisees. Is that where you want to be?

To rank among Christians, use all you are and all you have for earthly responsibilities and to accomplish eternal purposes. You will find life and joy coupled with inevitable challenges that strengthen your faith and dependence on God when you choose the righteous path.

Don’t allow covetousness to trick you into holding on to wealth, like it did to the Pharisees, lest it drag you to destruction like it did for them.