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Gregory the Great: Speaking of someone else

The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” 2 Samuel 12:1-7a

“The poor are to be advised one way and the rich another. To the former, we should offer solace against tribulation, and to the latter, we should make them fear pride… It is possible for a rich [person] to be humble and for a poor [person] to be proud. Therefore, the preacher must quickly adapt words to the life of the listener so as to destroy the pride of the poor all the more sternly (especially if this one is not even humbled by poverty). Likewise, the preacher should gently encourage the rich who are humble (so long as they are not exalted by their abundance). Sometimes, however, even a proud [person] is to be placated by a gentle exhortation, because tough wounds are often softened by gentle mitigation and the rage of a disturbed person is often restored to sanity by the gentle words of a physician… Sometimes when we censure the powerful of this world, it is better to engage them as though we are speaking of someone else. And then, after they have pronounced a just sentence on what they believe to be someone else’s actions, they are to be struck in an appropriate manner with the reality of their own guilt. This way, a mind that is elated by its temporal authority cannot reject a judgment against itself, because it was its own ruling that trampled upon the neck of pride; and it will not be able to defend itself, being bound by the sentence of its own mouth. It was for this reason that the prophet Nathan had come to reprove the king and asked for his judgment as though the case were between a poor man and a rich man.”

Gregory the Great (c. 540-604) in The Book of Pastoral Rule (Crestwood: St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2007) 90-92. Gregory is the fourth of the Four Doctors of the Western Church. He wrote this rule as a guide for clergy. This excerpt suggest how to speak to the rich and poor about money. It’s brilliant, and it’s fitting to share after some exceptional meetings with seminary leaders this week in California from whence I returned late last night.

While we must communicate differently with the rich and poor as they face different challenges, this counsel from Gregory the Great regarding how to speak to the rich and powerful really resonates with me. Wanting nothing from them, but rather, something for them, we must in our communications paint pictures that help them take positive steps on their journey. To blatantly tell them what they are doing wrong often does not get us (or them) very far.

So how can we encourage others to take steps that may seem obvious to us but may be unclear to them? For the humble, we must be gentle. With the proud and powerful, we might do well to tell stories like Nathan, the prophet, did with David. In “speaking of someone else” we must not encourage people to take just one step toward obedience, but rather, help them “trample on the neck of pride,” realizing, like David, they have sinned and must change directions immediately.

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Jerome of Stridon: Trample on covetousness

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Acts 4:32-35

“Your abundance has supported the want of many that some day their riches may abound to supply your want [2 Corinthians 8:14]; you have made to yourself “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness that they may receive you into everlasting habitations” [Luke 16:9]. Such conduct deserves praise and merits to be compared with the virtue of apostolic times. Then, as you know, believers sold their possessions and brought the prices of them and laid them down at the apostles’ feet [Acts 4:34-35]: a symbolic act designed to shew that men must trample on covetousness. But the Lord yearns for believers’ souls more than for their riches. We read in the Proverbs: “the ransom of a man’s soul are his own riches” [Proverbs 13:8]. We may, indeed, take a man’s own riches to be those which do not come from some one else, or from plunder; according to the precept: “honour God with thy just labours” [Proverbs 3:9]. But the sense is better if we understand a man’s “own riches” to be those hidden treasures which no thief can steal and no robber wrest from him [cf. Matthew 6:20].”

Jerome of Stridon (347 – 420) in Letter LXXI.4 To Lucinius. Jerome is the third of the Four Doctors of the Western Church that we will explore on the topic of abundance.

Jerome knew God’s Word on the topic of money and wove Scriptures in this letter to Lucinius like a tapestry. If you are in ministry, this letter shows you how to talk to people about money. It reminds us that the Lord yearns for our souls more than our riches and we trample on covetousness when we put His resources to work!

But how does setting the money at the apostles’ feet “trample on covetousness? If we don’t master money, it masters us. If we don’t make it our slave, it enslaves us. We master it and make it our slave by putting it to work to accomplish God’s purposes. We trample on it’s power over us, only when we handle it in accordance with the teachings of Jesus.

Put whatever you possess in a place where no thief can touch it. Store it up in heaven! “Keeping” is not an option. And, if you missed it yesterday, “keeping” is an operative word in a recent Soulcare Anchoress post by my wife, Jenni. It’s simply entitled “Money” and uses the word “keeping” in a powerful way (and shows what the wife of the Generosity Monk thinks about money).

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Ambrose of Milan: So that no one would be without

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8

“When [God] had bestowed the greatest of graces on man, as though he were His dearest and nearest friend, He gave him everything in the world, so that no one would be without the necessities of life and the good life. One of these is the means of providing pleasure the abundance of the earth’s fruits; another is the knowledge of the secrets of heaven, which inflames the mind with love for his fellow men and longing for virtue by which we can reach the summit of divine mysteries. Both are most excellent to have, as a king of the elements, the use of the sea, and to have all the world’s wealth subject to him creatures of air, land and water; to abound in all things without labor or want in the image and likeness of the adorable Creator, living in the greatest plenty, opening a way and advancing along a path by which to reach the palace of heaven.”

Ambrose of Milan (c. 339-397) in Letter 43 to Horontianus containing “Answers to questions on Creation” (FC 26.254-264). Ambrose is the second of the Four Doctors of the Western Church that we will explore on the topic of abundance.

Don’t miss the idea Ambrose sets forth that’s consistent with the Apostolic Fathers and continues in the mind of the Four Doctors of the Western Church: “He gave him everything in the world, so that no one would be without the necessities of life and the good life.” Our role atop creation comes with responsibilities!

God’s design is that the material and spiritual abundance He provides is enjoyed and shared by all. Foolish are those who store it up for themselves. Hear this as a warning, lest you meet Jesus having handled wealth otherwise! He fixed us as the crown of creation to steward spiritual and material wealth according to His purposes. “Keeping” is not an option!

Speaking of “keeping”… that’s an operative word in a recent Soulcare Anchoress post by my wife, Jenni. It’s simply entitled “Money” and uses the word “keeping” in a profound way. Read the post for yourself, and I especially commend it to all those who wonder what the wife of the Generosity Monk thinks about money. It’s a “must-read” post!

As for me, I’m privileged to host Think Tank 2018 with senior administrators of 13 seminaries at Fuller Theological Seminary this week in Pasadena, California (pictured above). Each school has an abundance mentality! Keeping nothing back, they share best practices with each other so that all schools flourish for equipping of men and women for lives of ministry and service.

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Augustine of Hippo: A hurtful life

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Mark 8:36

“Do you want to have a country cottage? I refuse to believe you want a bad one. You want to get a wife, but only a good one, a home, but only a good one. Why should I run through everything one by one? You don’t want to have a bad shoe, and you want to have a bad life? As though a bad shoe can do you more harm than a bad life! When a bad, ill-fitting shoe starts hurting you, you sit down, take it off, throw it away or put it right or change it, or order not to damage a toe. A bad life, which can lose you your soul, you don’t care to put right. But I can see clearly enough where you delude yourself; a hurtful shoe causes pain, a hurtful life causes pleasure. The first indeed hurts, the second pleases. But what pleases for a time, later on brings much worse pain, while what brings salutary pain for a time, later on brings endless pleasure and abundant, joyful happiness.”

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) in Sermon 339.4 “On the Anniversary of His Ordination” in Essential Sermons, translated by Edmund Hill, edited by Daniel Doyle (New York: New City Press, 2007). Augustine of Hippo is first of the Four Doctors of the Western Church that we will explore on the topic of abundance.

Augustine preached this sermon on the anniversary of his ordination as bishop of Hippo. On that day each year, the church hosted a feast for the poor. Sadly, as the people he served flourished, they cared more about having more and better possessions than they did about caring for needy people. Has much changed in modernity? Most people (then and now) choose “a hurtful life” because it “causes pleasure” rather than experience “salutary pain for a time” which later on “brings endless pleasure and abundant, joyful happiness.”

The church in Hippo, located on the northeastern coast of present-day Algeria, wrestled with sacrifice as the pathway for service to others. In that cultural setting, many appear to have equated “showing care for family members” as “giving every earthly pleasure” to loved ones. Frankly, that’s how to ruin your family. He urged them to inconvenience themselves to aid others following the example of Christ, citing 2 Corinthians 8:9. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Today I fly to Los Angeles and spend three days with leaders of thirteen seminaries at Fuller Theological Seminary. For many years, it’s been a privilege to facilitate a Think Tank annually with senior administrators of Asbury, Covenant, Dallas, Denver, Fuller, Gordon Conwell, Northeastern, Northern, Phoenix, Reformed, Sioux Falls, Western, and Westminster. We learn rich insights from each other. One thing the group has in common with Augustine: they want everyone they serve to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and shift from amassing possessions to serving people.

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Egerton Gospel: Immeasurable abundance

Today’s post is a perfect reading for a Monday! It celebrates the immeasurable abundance that flows from a fruitful life. Scholars describe Papyrus Egerton 2 as an ancient text that recounts four fragments of stories, one of which is a miracle of Jesus. It that sense, it’s referred to as Egerton Gospel, simply because it represents an early account of Jesus (c. AD 70-120). Below is the reading, Willker’s notes on it, the OT Scripture that it likely parallels, and brief comments from me.

“When a husbandman has enclosed a small seed in a secret place, so that it is invisibly buried, how does its abundance become immeasurable?” And when they where perplexed at the strange question, Jesus, as he walked, stood on the banks of the River Jordan, and stretching out his right hand, He filled it with seed and sowed it upon the ground. And thereupon he poured sufficient water over it. And looking at the ground before them, the fruit appeared.” Papyrus Egerton 2, Fragment 2 Verso.

As Willker’s notes, “Though the fragment cannot be reconstructed sufficiently, the meaning can be found: A small seed in the ground is hidden and invisible. How does its abundance become immeasurable? (By growing and bringing fruit.) To clarify this, Jesus performs a miracle: He walks up to the river Jordan and with the water he gives rise to a spontaneous ripening of fruit. (much, for joy!)

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set forth an allegory and tell it to the Israelites as a parable. 3 Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: A great eagle with powerful wings, long feathers and full plumage of varied colors came to Lebanon. Taking hold of the top of a cedar, he broke off its topmost shoot and carried it away to a land of merchants, where he planted it in a city of traders. “‘He took one of the seedlings of the land and put it in fertile soil. He planted it like a willow by abundant water, and it sprouted and became a low, spreading vine. Its branches turned toward him, but its roots remained under it. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out leafy boughs. “‘But there was another great eagle with powerful wings and full plumage. The vine now sent out its roots toward him from the plot where it was planted and stretched out its branches to him for water. It had been planted in good soil by abundant water so that it would produce branches, bear fruit and become a splendid vine.’ “Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Will it thrive? Will it not be uprooted and stripped of its fruit so that it withers? All its new growth will wither. It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it up by the roots. It has been planted, but will it thrive? Will it not wither completely when the east wind strikes it—wither away in the plot where it grew?’” Ezekiel 17:1-10

Why cite this on a Monday? What does it have to do with generosity?

Each and every week holds the prospect of fruitfulness for you and me — immeasurable fruitfulness! We never know the impact that can multiply through us as we abide in Christ and drink of the living water that flows from Him.

This ancient papyrus does seems to recount a miracle of Jesus, the Son of Man, as foreshadowed eloquently by Ezekiel. God’s design and desire for each of us is to “produce branches, bear fruit and become a splendid vine.”

The prophet proclaims a question from the Sovereign Lord to the vine of each of our lives. Will it thrive? 

If we want to exhibit Christian generosity, then we must abide in Christ and drink the water only He can supply. We must soak in the Word of God, so it nourishes our souls. While most hear and don’t do what it says, we must hear and do.

When we do what it says, we will look different from the world. We will offend the religious and self-righteous, as Jesus ruffled the feathers of the Pharisees and other religious leaders, and we will look like foolishness to the world.

Our generosity will come into view as distinctly Christian. It will look like Christ who held nothing back, who did not show favoritism, who extended mercy and grace to the most undeserving, and much more.

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Cyprian of Carthage: Abundant intention and perfection

Recently I received an article from a brilliant scholar and friend, Edwina Murphy, entitled, “Sell Your Possessions: Cyprian, Luke, and Wealth” (Colloquium 49/2 2017), so next we turn to Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (c. 200-258). When reading the article, to my amazement three quotes in a row referred to “abundance” in different ways. This Lord’s day, enjoy a trifecta of profound thoughts from Cyprian laced with Scripture and some brief commentary from me.

“Consider in the Gospel the widow that remembered the heavenly precepts, doing good even amidst the pressure and straits of poverty, casting two mites, which were all that she had, into the treasury. When the Lord observed and saw, regarding her work not for its abundance, but for its intention, and considering not how much, but from how much, she had given, He answered and said, “Truly I say unto you, that that widow has put more than all of them into the offerings of God. For all these have put into the offerings of God from what they had in abundance; but she from her lack has put in all the living that she had” [Luke 21:3-4]. Greatly blessed and glorious woman, who even before the day of judgement has merited to be praised by the voice of the judge!” De opere et eleemosynis 15 (CCSL 3A:64).

With the widow we must remember “the heavenly precepts” and do good despite poverty and pressure. Rest assured, Jesus sees when we do this (or don’t do it). Then notice the profound line by Cyprian! Jesus observes the widow and celebrates “not how much, but from how much, she had given.” He acknowledges her abundant intention and action!

“You heap up a patrimony which burdens you with its weight; and you do not remember what God answered to the rich man, who boasted with a foolish exultation of the abundance of his exuberant harvest: “You fool,” said he, “tonight your soul is required of you; then whose will be those things which you have prepared [Luke 12:20]?” Why do you watch in loneliness over your riches? Why for your punishment do you heap up the burden of your patrimony, that, in proportion as you are rich in this world, you may become poor to God?” Allusion to Luke 12:21 De opere et eleemosynis 13 (CCSL 3A:63).

Patrimony is property stockpiled for the next generation. The world calls it good financial planning, and many Christians echo that sentiment. Jesus, however, labels it foolishness! A biblical inheritance does not entail providing a pile of money to your progeny, but rather, it includes passing on deep faith, teaching children to work, and helping them have a place to live.

“So also God rebukes the rich fool, who thinks of his earthly wealth and boasts in the abundance of his over owing harvests, saying, “You fool, tonight your soul is required of you; then whose will be those things which you have prepared [Luke 12:20]?” The fool who was to die that very night was rejoicing in his stores, and the one to whom life was already failing, was thinking of the abundance of his food. But, on the other hand, the Lord tells us that he becomes perfect and complete who sells all his goods, and distributes them for the use of the poor, and so lays up for himself treasure in heaven.” Allusion to Matt 19:21. De dominica oratione 20(CCSL 3A:102–3).

Cyprian beckons wealthy believers to obey Jesus and choose the “perfect and complete” path which, as Edwina Murphy rightly notes, calls for “repentance and renunciation.” Share wealth with the needy. All of it! For years we took the imperfect and incomplete way. We never had enough because we accumulated the wrong thing. Stop rationalizing disobedience. Be rich toward God!

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The Odes of Solomon: Abundant salvation and generosity

The Odes of Solomon are a treasure for anyone who likes hymns. I commend their lyrics to music-lovers like my mother-in-law, Wilma Pickrell, who is visiting from California with my father-in-law, John. Scholars like James Charlesworth, who translated this edition, describe them as the “earliest Christian hymn book” (dated between AD 100-200).

There are 42 odes attributed to Solomon, though it’s impossible for us to trace their origin back to the son of David. However, Solomon did write two of the Psalms in the Scriptures: Psalm 72 and Psalm 127. Today’s post brings “abundance” into view in my favorite for Eastertide, the season of joy, is Ode 15. My comments along with a Scripture from Solomon follow below.

“As the sun is the joy of them who seek its daybreak, so is my joy the Lord;
Because He is my sun, and His rays have lifted me up; and His light has dismissed all darkness from my face.
Eyes I have obtained in Him, and have seen His holy day.
Ears I have acquired, and have heard His truth.
The thought of knowledge I have acquired, and have enjoyed delight fully through Him.
I repudiated the way of error, and went towards Him and received salvation from Him abundantly.
And according to His generosity He gave to me, and according to His excellent beauty He made me.
I put on immortality through His name, and took off corruption by His grace.
Death has been destroyed before my face, and Sheol has been vanquished by my word.
And eternal life has arisen in the Lord’s land, and it has been declared to His faithful ones, and has been given without limit to all that trust in Him.
Hallelujah.”

Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen. Psalm 72:18-19

It’s fascinating to find that Lactantius (c. 250-325), the advisor to Emperor Constantine and tutor to his son, cited The Odes of Solomon in his writings. That means that into the fourth century, lyrics such as these were likely sung by followers of Christ. But what does this ode have to do with generosity?

The lyrics motivate us to live, give, serve, and love others because of abundant salvation and generosity of our God. It reveals in a word that generosity is a response, a worshipful response to the realization of that all we have received from our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Celebrate today that resurrection life of Jesus is “given without limit to all that trust in Him!”

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Shepherd of Hermas: Give abundantly

One of my favorites among the Apostolic Fathers is the Shepherd of Hermas who lived sometime in the late first and second century AD. Today’s excerpt that celebrates the theme of “abundance” comes from Visions 3.9 and don’t miss my comments below in response.

Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil. Proverbs 15:16

“Give ear unto me, O Sons: I have brought you up in much simplicity, and guilelessness, and chastity, on account of the mercy of the Lord, who has dropped His righteousness down upon you, that ye may be made righteous and holy from all your iniquity and depravity; but you do not wish to rest from your iniquity. Now, therefore, listen to me, and be at peace one with another, and visit each other, and bear each other’s burdens, and do not partake of God’s creatures alone, but give abundantly of them to the needy. For some through the abundance of their food produce weakness in their flesh, and thus corrupt their flesh; while the flesh of others who have no food is corrupted, because they have not sufficient nourishment. And on this account their bodies waste away. This intemperance in eating is thus injurious to you who have abundance and do not distribute among those who are needy. Give heed to the judgment that is to come. Ye, therefore, who are high in position, seek out the hungry as long as the tower is not yet finished; for after the tower is finished, you will wish to do good, but will find no opportunity.”

Today I want to honor my parents. With consistency, they brought me up (along with my brother and sister) with modest financial means but we were rich in the fear of the Lord. They have modeled simplicity and generosity according to their ability, and have taught me yet another lesson in the days before their proverbial tower is finished: how to finish well.

During their lifetime they stored up most everything in heaven. They’ve lived on a simply float of income and worked well into their 70’s, merely trimming their days as they have aged. After my mom had heart episode last year, they determined it was time to relocate to Florida to be close to my brother, David, and his wife, Joanna, so that they (and we) can support them.

Over the past nine months or so, they emptied their home, shared family heirlooms with their children, and gave remaining possessions to charity. They have had meetings and meals with many in Ohio where they’ve lived their whole lives. For many, it was “goodbye” or at least “see you in the Kingdom.” For keen observers, this was yet another set of teachable moments.

Every person they met with face-to-face received a gift from this generous couple: a baton. The meetings and meals taught people to follow their example and so they were really baton-passings. They showed each one how to finish well. Their example challenges people to “give abundantly” and not let “intemperance” become “injurious” to them but to distribute faithfully.

Way to go Mom and Dad! Thanks for the lesson. Safe travels to Florida. Godspeed!

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Theophilus of Antioch: Abundance of good things

As I continue to explore the theme of “abundance” in the writings of the early church in the 40 days between Christ’s resurrection and ascension, I came upon the letter from Theophilus to Autolycus. Theophilus of Antioch (c. 120-183) was bishop and overseer of the Christian Church in Antioch in the second century. Antioch was the place that Luke recounts where disciples of Jesus were first called “Christians” (see the Scripture below). Today’s meditation follows from Theophilus to Autolycus 14, and describes the sharing of the good news in ancient terms (specifically calling Autolycus to believe in the resurrection) as well as celebrating the “abundance of good things” found only in Jesus Christ.

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. Acts 11:19-26

“Therefore, do not be skeptical, but believe; for I myself also used to disbelieve that this would take place, but now, having taken these things into consideration, I believe. At the same time, I met with the sacred Scriptures of the holy prophets, who also by the Spirit of God foretold the things that have already happened, just as they came to pass, and the things now occurring as they are now happening, and things future in the order in which they shall be accomplished…

But do you also, if you please, give reverential attention to the prophetic Scriptures, and they will make your way plainer for escaping the eternal punishments, and obtaining the eternal prizes of God. For He who gave the mouth for speech, and formed the ear to hear, and made the eye to see, will examine all things, and will judge righteous judgment, rendering merited awards to each. To those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek immortality, He will give life everlasting, joy, peace, rest, and abundance of good things, which neither hath eye seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.

But to the unbelieving and despisers, who obey not the truth, but are obedient to unrighteousness, when they shall have been filled with adulteries and fornications, and filthiness, and covetousness, and unlawful idolatries, there shall be anger and wrath, tribulation and anguish, and at the last everlasting fire shall possess such men. Since you said, “Show me thy God,” this is my God, and I counsel you to fear Him and to trust Him.”

The last line from the bishop really stuck with me today. “I counsel you to fear Him and to trust Him.” Most people in our world trust in riches rather than Christ. This is evidenced by how they store up riches. My wife, Jenni, and I talk to people often who proclaim to be Christ followers but their lives neither exhibit the fruit of fear and trust, nor do they handle money any differently than the world. They are a mess with regard to money (and much more)!

What is our counsel to them?

It’s the same as that of Theophilus to Autolycus: fear Him and trust Him. Do what He says to do. You won’t figure out what Jesus is teaching you until you obey. That’s why He commands us to follow. As the bishop states, “He will give life everlasting, joy, peace, rest, and abundance of good things, which neither hath eye seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.”

The paradox is that you must exchange the things of this world for the things of God to get the abundance Jesus offers.

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Eusebius Pamphilius: Abundant supply

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36

“Let what has been said suffice to prove that nothing exists without reason and intelligence, and that reason itself and providence are of God. It is He who has also distributed the metals, as gold, silver, copper, and the rest, in due proportion; ordaining an abundant supply of those which would be most needed and generally employed, while he dispensed those which serve the purposes merely of pleasure in adornment of luxury with a liberal and yet a sparing hand, holding a mean between parsimony and profusion. For the searchers for metals, were those which are employed for ornament procured in equal abundance with the rest, would be impelled by avarice to despise and neglect to gather those which, like iron or copper, are serviceable for husbandry, or house-building, or the equipment of ships; and would care for those only which conduce to luxury and a superfluous excess of wealth. Hence it is, as they say, that the search for gold and silver is far more difficult and laborious than that for any other metals, the violence of the toil thus acting as a counterpoise to the violence of the desire. And how many instances might still further be enumerated of the workings of that Divine Providence which, in all the gifts which it has so unsparingly conferred upon us, plainly urges us to the practice of self-control and all other virtues, and leads us away from unbefitting covetousness! To trace the secret reasons of all these things is indeed a task which exceeds the power of human faculties. For how can the intellect of a frail and perishable being arrive at the knowledge of perfect truth, or apprehend in its purity the counsel of God from the beginning?”

Eusebius Pamphilius (263-339) in The Oration of Constantine, Chapter VIII. “That God bestows an Abundant Supply of whatever is suited to the Wants of Man, and ministers but sparingly to his Pleasures; in Both Cases with a View to his Advantage.”

In this excerpt we discover that God’s providence supplies for the needs of humankind while ministering sparingly to our pleasures lest “unbefitting covetousness” destroy us and cause us only to seek only after that which can make us wealthy.

What’s this profound truth have to do with generosity?

In plain terms, God’s ways are not ours. His desires for us are for everyone’s good, while we tend to seek after only our own good. He wants us to procure all He supplies with “equal abundance” so that we become both productive and generous.

Only as we mature, do we find that we give nothing but what God has already given us. When we grow as productive servants, we discover that we are not really givers, but rather, distributors of His abundant supply.

The wisdom of God shows us that in His abundant economy all things are from Him, through Him, and for Him. We are not the center of the universe, He is. How should we then live (and give) as a result?

Let us make the risen Savior the center of our lives, not the acquisition of wealth. The former will position us for a generous living with all He abundantly supplies. The latter will destroy us. And there’s no middle option.

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