The Shepherd of Hermas: Do something good

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Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” Mark 10:21-23

“And from the third mountain, the one with thorns and briars, are believers such as these: some of them are rich, and some are entangled in many business affairs. The briars are the rich, and the thorns are those who are entangled in various business affairs.

So these who are entangled in many and various business affairs do not associate with God’s servants, but being choked by their affairs they go astray. Meanwhile the rich associate with God’s servants only with difficulty, for they are afraid that they may be asked for something by them. Such people, therefore, will enter the kingdom of God only with difficulty. For just as it is difficult to walk on briars with bare feet, so it is difficult for such people to enter the kingdom of God.

But for all these repentance is possible, but it must be quick, so that they may now retrace the days when in former times they failed to do anything, and do something good. So, if they repent and do something good, they will live to God; but if they persist in their actions, they will be handed over to those women, who will put them to death.”

The Shepherd of Hermas 97, Parable IX.20 (c. A.D. 70-140) in The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations 3rd edition, edited and translated by, Michael W. Holmes after the earlier work of J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, 106.

As I near the end of the GTP retreat outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania (Amish Country pictured above), I am also nearing the end of The Shepherd of Hermas, likely my favorite Apostolic Father next to the Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas.

Today’s parable features one of 12 mountains in the parables section of this classic work.

The briars and thorns represent the rich and those entangled by the affairs of business. Jesus appears as sympathetic toward these people. He proclaims that it is really hard for them to enter the kingdom.

Are you rich? Are you entangled by business affairs? The Shepherd of Hermas offers you brilliant advice. Do something good. You will figure it out as you live it out that this is the best use of your time and resources.

Whether you trust me or not, please hear this. Don’t ever make a deal with God that if He does something to your business then you will do something good. Start now. Do it even when times are tough.

It requires absolutely no faith to take such a posture. God knows that, and as the parable notes, acts accordingly. Death awaits such entangled people who don’t change directions. Don’t let that happen to you.