For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Luke 9:24-25
“Disperse therefore, that thou mayest not lose; keep not, that thou mayest keep; lay out, that thou mayest save; spend, that thou mayest gain. If thy treasures are to be hoarded, do not thou hoard them, for thou wilt surely cast them away; but entrust them to God, for thence no man makes spoil of them. Do not thou traffic, for thou knowest not at all how to gain; but lend unto Him who gives an interest greater than the principal. Lend, where is no envy, no accusation, nor evil design, nor fear. Lend unto Him who wants nothing, yet hath need for thy sake; who feeds all men, yet is an hungered, that thou mayest not suffer famine; who is poor, that thou mayest be rich. Lend there, where thy return cannot be death, but life instead of death. For this usury is the harbinger of a kingdom, that, of hell; the one coming of covetousness, the other of self-denial; the one of cruelty, the other of humanity.
What excuse then will be ours, when having the power to receive more, and that with security, and in due season, and in great freedom, without either reproaches, or fears, or dangers, we let go these gains, and follow after that other sort, base and vile as they are, insecure and perishable, and greatly aggravating the furnace for us? For nothing, nothing is baser than the usury of this world, nothing more cruel. Why, other persons’ calamities are such a man’s traffic; he makes himself gain of the distress of another, and demands wages for kindness, as though he were afraid to seem merciful, and under the cloak of kindness he digs the pitfall deeper, by the act of help galling a man’s poverty, and in the act of stretching out the hand thrusting him down, and when receiving him as in harbor, involving him in shipwreck, as on a rock, or shoal, or reef.
“But what dost thou require?” saith one; “that I should give another for his use that money which I have got together, and which is to me useful, and demand no recompense?” Far from it: I say not this: yea, I earnestly desire that thou shouldest have a recompense; not however a mean nor small one, but far greater; for in return for gold, I would that thou shouldest receive Heaven for usury. Why then shut thyself up in poverty, crawling about the earth, and demanding little for great? Nay, this is the part of one who knows not how to be rich. For when God in return for a little money is promising thee the good things that are in Heaven, and thou sayest, “Give me not Heaven, but instead of Heaven the gold that perisheth,” this is for one who wishes to continue in poverty.
Even as he surely who desires wealth and abundance will choose things abiding rather than things perishing; the inexhaustible, rather than such as waste away; much rather than little, the incorruptible rather than the corruptible. For so the other sort too will follow. For as he who seeks earth before Heaven, will surely lose earth also, so he that prefers Heaven to earth, shall enjoy both in great excellency. And that this may be the case with us, let us despise all things here, land choose the good things to come. For thus shall we obtain both the one and the other, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom be glory and might for ever and ever. Amen.”
John Chyrsostom (349-407), doctor of the Eastern Church, in Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, 5.8.
In exploring the connection between kindness and generosity in Chrysostom’s writings, I located this gem. At least three comments are noteworthy for our own application.
Firstly, ask yourself if you bear a cloak of kindness rather than kindness. Those who lend freely follow God’s design, whereas those who practice usury, that is, who charge interest to their neighbor, are not helping but hurting those in need.
Secondly, rather than seek a return from usury, seek heavenly gain. In other words, don’t seek earthly financial gain with any wealth you may possess, but seek heavenly gain by storing up treasures in heaven. Practically speaking, both my son and daughter are engaged to be married. I will encourage them to pray about setting a goal to store up a target amount in heaven in their marriage whilst their peers set goals for hoarding wealth on earth.
Thirdly, read the Scriptures and enjoy classic homilies for encouragement. Chrysostom was a leading influence on modern influential voices like C.S. Lewis. I find that the writings of the doctors of the church inspire and edify me richly.
Taken together, these three comments inspire us to show kindness, to seek heavenly gain, and to get inspiration to stay the course from those who have gone before us. As I travel over the next week to places that closed to the gospel, such truths are like wind in my sails.
I pray they inspire you to join me in losing your life for the sake of Christ.