St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica: possess temporal goods and thirst again; possess the sovereign good and never thirst again!

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St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica: possess temporal goods and thirst again; possess the sovereign good and never thirst again!

“Whether Man’s Happiness Can Consist in Wealth?

Reply Objection 3. The desire for natural riches is not infinite: because they suffice for nature in a certain measure. But the desire for artificial wealth is infinite, for it is the servant of disordered concupiscence, which is not curbed, as the Philosopher makes clear (Politics i. 3). Yet this desire for wealth is infinite otherwise than the desire for the sovereign good. For the more perfectly the sovereign good is possessed, the more it is loved, and other things despised: because the more we possess it, the more we know it. Hence it is written, (Sir.. 24:29): They that eat me shall yet hunger. Whereas in the desire for wealth and for whatsoever temporal goods, the contrary is the case: for when we already possess them, we despise them, and seek others: which is the sense of our Lord’s words (John 4:13): Whosoever drinketh of this water, by which temporal goods are signified, shall thirst again. The reason of this is that we realize more their insufficiency when we possess them: and this very fact shows that they are imperfect, and that the sovereign good does not consist therein.”

St. Thomas Aquinas in A Summa of the Summa: Essential Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica, ed. and ann. by Peter Kreeft (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990) 363.

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Leo the Great: What things do you mind?

“Grant to us, O Lord, not to mind earthly things, but rather to love heavenly things, that while all things around us pass away, we even now may hold fast those things that abide forever.”

Leo the Great (c. 400-461) as recounted in At Prayer with the Saints, ed. by Anthony F. Chiffolo (Ligouri, MO: Ligouri, 1998).

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Abba Zosimas: Are you free from everything?

“Again, they also used to say the following about the same Old Man. Once he went to the market place in order to purchase some clothing for himself. And he bought it. Having given a piece of gold, he still had to pay some small change. So he took the clothing and placed it beneath him. While he was counting out the coins on the counter, someone came along and wanted to steal the clothing. The Old Man perceived this and understood what was happening. Yet, since he had a merciful and compassionate heart, he lifted himself up gradually, supposedly pretending to reach out over the counter in order to pay the coins. In this way, the other person was able to steal the clothing and departed. The Old Man, however, did not rebuke him.
And the blessed Abba Zosimas would conclude: How expensive were the clothing and the vessels, which the Old Man had lost? Yet his great will power revealed that he possessed these material things without any attachment to them. He neglected the fact that they had been stolen, and simply remained the same person; he was neither saddened nor troubled. For as I always like to say: It is not possessing something that is harmful, but being attached to it. Even if this Old Man possessed the whole world, he would have done so without being attached to it. From his actions, he proved that he was free from everything.”

Abba Zosimas as cited by John Chryssavgis in In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, Inc.) 149.

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John Vianney: Aphorisms from his sermons on what you can offer to God

“How beautiful, how great, to know, to love, to serve God. We have nothing but that to do in this world. Anything whatever that we do apart from that is a waste of time…Here is a rule of conduct: Do only what you can offer to God.”

“We have nothing of our own but our will. It is the only thing that God has so placed in our own power that we can make an offering of it to him.”

St. John Vianney as cited by George William Rutler in St. John Vianney: The Cure d’Ars today (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988) 153; and Bert Ghezzi in Voices of the Saints: A Year of Readings (New York: Image Doubleday, 2000) 398.

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John of Gaza: Learning to Give Alms

Question: What should someone do to become accustomed to giving alms, if from the beginning one does not enjoy giving at all?

Response by John: That person should remind oneself how God will reward those who give, and begin with small things, always advising oneself that one who gives little will receive little; one who gives much will also receive much, according to the words: “The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9.6) And, from the little, the thought is gradually moved to desire the bountiful, and therefore always progresses toward perfection. Such a person can reach perfect measures in order to render oneself naked of all earthly things and become one in spirit with the heavenly things.

St. Barsanuphius and St. John of Gaza in Letters from the Desert: A Selection of Questions and Responses trans. John Chryssavigis (Crestwood, NJ: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003) 167.

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Eusebius Pamphilus: Readings from the Ecclesiastical History

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 263-339) lived 200+ years after Acts 4:34-35 and gives this account in his famous work The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus, Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine drawing from the work of Philo (20 BCE – 50 AD) lived at the time of the early church.

“Wherefore, as it is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, a book well authenticated, that all the associates of the apostles, after selling their possessions and substance, distributed to all according to the necessity of each one, so that there was none in want among them. “For as many as had lands and houses,” as this account says, “selling them, brought the value of the property sold, and laid it at the apostles’ feet, so as to distribute to each one according to his necessity.”

Philo giving his testimony to facts very much like these, in the same description adds the following statement: “This kind of men is every where scattered over the world, for both Greeks and barbarians should share in so permanent a benefit. They abound, however, in Egypt, in each of its districts, and particularly about Alexandria. But the principal men among them from every quarter emigrate to a place situated on a moderate elevation of land beyond the lake Maria, very advantageously located both for safety and temperature of the air, as if it were the native country of the Therapeutoe.”

After thus describing what kind of habitations they have, he speaks thus of the churches in the place: “In every house there is a sacred apartment, which they call the Semnseum, or Monasterium, where, retired from men, they perform the mysteries of a pious life. Hither they bring nothing with them, neither drink nor food, nor any thing else requisite to the necessities of the body; they only bring the law and the inspired declarations of the prophets, and hymns, and such things by which knowledge and piety may be augmented and perfected.” Translated by C.F. Cruse (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1851), p. 55.

After reading this, let us each ponder these things over the next three days:

(1) As “associates of the Apostles” 2,000+ years later, do we radically handle our riches like this? LORD, what should we sell and distribute to fellow believers in need today?

(2) What would it look like if we as Christians lived together in community today? Do we need to move to a desert place? Could we do it in the city? How about the suburbs?

(3) As our LORD’s presence is always with us, what does He see in our houses today? Do they have a Semnseum or Monasterium, literally translated: a chapel. Do we have dedicated space for study and spending time with Him?

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Gene Getz cites Paul’s charge to offer ourselves as the most comprehensive principle on possessions

“The most comprehensive supracultural principle that describes how Christians should use their material resources is implicit in Paul’s powerful exhortation to the Romans:

I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2).

Paul, of course, had in mind many facets of our Christian lives when he penned these powerful words. But one stands out on the pages of Scripture–our priorities regarding material possessions. When we offer our material gifts to God, we’re also engaging in a ‘spiritual act of worship’ that reflects the degree to which we are living in God’s ‘good, pleasing and perfect will.’”

Gene Getz Rich in Every Way: Everything God says about Money and Possessions – 102 Supracultural Principles for Handing Material Possessions (West Monroe, LA: Howard, 2004) 317-318.

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John MacArthur: Whose money is it anyway?

“If you know God owns everything in the world, controls all its assets, and can provide for you as His child, then there is no need for you to trust in luxury, be enticed by materialism, or stockpile for the future. Your daily life as a Christian need not revolve around those concerns, but in being content with what you have (1 Tim. 6:6-8; Heb. 13:5). You don’t have to own everything or be in control of every circumstance to have enough money for your basic needs. Instead, you can set aside all worry and anxiety about your needs and gladly receive whatever God gives you to invest in His kingdom (Matt. 6:31-34). That’s the scriptural answer to how we should view wealth and how we should start to deal with any prideful, selfish preoccupation with greed and materialism.”

John MacArthur in Whose Money is it, Anyway? A Biblical Guide to Using God’s Wealth (Nashville: Word, 2000) 12-13.

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Rick Warren on God and Money: Which one will you choose?

“To become a real servant you are going to have to settle the issue of money in your life. Jesus said, “No servant can serve to masters…You cannot serve both God and Money.” He didn’t say, “You should not,” but “You cannot.” It is impossible. Living for ministry and living for money are mutually exclusive goals. Which one will you choose? If you’re a servant of God, you can’t moonlight for yourself. All your time belongs to God. He insists on exclusive allegiance, not part-time faithfulness.

Money has the greatest potential to replace God in your life. More people are sidetracked from serving by materialism than by anything else. They say, “After I achieve my financial goals, I’m going to serve God.” That is a foolish decision they will regret for eternity. When Jesus is your Master, money serves you, but if money is your master, you become its slave. Wealth is certainly not a sin, but failing to use it for God’s glory is. Servants of God are always more concerned about ministry than money.”

Rick Warren in The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth and am I Here For? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002) 267.

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Judson W. VanDeVenter: Song of surrender

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;

I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

Refrain: I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to Thee,
my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,

Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

Refrain

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;

Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

Refrain

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;

Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

Refrain

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.

O the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

Refrain

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