Valerian of Cimiez: The Deceptiveness of Riches

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Valerian of Cimiez: The Deceptiveness of Riches

“Therefore dearly beloved, the rust is the worm which seeks alone to possess the recesses of the human heart. The worm is envy and avarice. But the thief is the devil. Believe this. To lay his plots against good deeds, he flatters us with the pomp of the world. To keep a man from sharing in the heavenly kingdom, he puts gold in his hands, silver before his eyes, and gems about his neck. In this way he nourishes pride and by the goad of covetousness enkindles the desires of the flesh.”

People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 1 Timothy 6:9

Valerian of Cimiez, 5th century monk of Lerins, homilist and Bishop of Cimiez from Homily 7.3 on 1 Tim 6:9 in The Good Works Reader, ed. by Thomas C. Oden (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2007) 306.

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Salvian: Storing up possessions can hinder rather than help your children find God

“There is no compelling necessity for you to store up large earthly treasures for your children. You would do better to make your offspring treasures of God than make them richer in worldly goods.”

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Salvian (c. 400-429) from The Four Books of Timothy to the Church 1.4 and Mark 10:25 in The Good Works Reader, ed. by Thomas C. Oden (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2007) 302.

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Thomas Oden sums up Stewardship after studying comments from saints over the past 2,000 years

“The incarnate Lord knew what it was to be rich, incomparably so, but he came into the world as the poor, the child, the outcast, the refugee. He showed humanity the path of self-denial. The crucified Lord shared our human weakness, even unto death. He sent the Holy Spirit to help us grow to full maturity as persons. He calls each of us to use rightly the gifts we have received.

We have been asking how the ancient church understood the ministries to the affluent that they were actually offering. The answer we found not only in their letters, poetry, hymnody, and homilies, but also in their detailed exegesis of scripture texts on wealth, coveting, temptation, philanthropy, the fleeting, value of worldly goods, reparations, and generous giving. Christianity has been engaged in this challenging dialogue with the affluent for two millennia.

Jesus’ message to those who have wealth is evident in narratives that treat the wealthy not with contempt but respect, yet challenge them to total accountability in relation to their eternal destiny. The rich can be saved, but special difficulties lie in the way. Speaking honestly to the rich about their moral responsibilities requires a strong hold on one’s identity, an attitude of candor, and the willingness to penetrate defensive dodges.

A key evidence of the Christian life is intentional, ordered stewardship. Those who possess resources are called to use them for good purposes, to be ready to give cheerfully. It is within the range of every believer to practice these simple good works: stewardship of resources, willingness to live the simple life, being content with what one has, and giving generously.”

Thomas C. Oden in The Good Works Reader (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2007) 319-320.

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George Bailey: It’s A Wonderful Life

“All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.”

Saying in the sign on George Bailey’s office wall in Frank Capra’s classic Christmas film: It’s a Wonderful Life

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Matthias Claudius: We Plow the Fields

We plow the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.

All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all His love.

He only is the Maker of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower, He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey Him, by Him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, His children, He gives our daily bread.

We thank Thee, then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest, our life, our health, and food;
No gifts have we to offer, for all Thy love imparts,
But that which Thou desirest, our humble, thankful hearts.

Matthias Claudius (1740-1813)
Translated from German to English by Jane M. Campbell (1817-1878)

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Ephrem the Syrian: Hymn on the Nativity

“At the birth of the Son the King was enrolling all men for the tribute money, that they might be debtors to him: the King came forth to us who blotted out our bills and wrote another bill in his own name that he might be our debtor.” Hymns on the Nativity 4

Ephrem the Syrian (c. 306-373) in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture vol. IX, ed. by Peter Gorday (Downers Grove: IVP, 2000) 34-35.

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Christina Rosetti: In The Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;

Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.

In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,

Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;

But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,

Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Christina G. Rosetti (1830-1894)

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Aurelius Clemens Prudentius: Earth Has Many a Noble City

“Aurelius Clemens Prudentius grew up in Spain, becoming a lawyer and judge. In 379 he was invited to Rome to become part of the emperor’s staff. He was fascinated by Rome with its new Christian churches and the tombs of the martyrs. Christianity had been legalized earlier that century and was now the official religion of the empire. Perhaps Rome was the “noble city” on which he began this meditation.

Despite his enthusiasm, Prudentius soon grew weary of public life. He felt he had become too self-centered, so in 395 he forsook his worldly position and entered a monastery. There he wrote several devotional and practical works. A few fragments like this have been translated and set to music.

EARTH HAS MANY A NOBLE CITY

Earth has many a noble city;
Bethlehem, thou dost all excel;
Out of thee the Lord from heaven
Came to rule His Israel.

Fairer than the sun at morning
Was the star that told his birth
To the world its God announcing
Seen in fleshly form on earth.

Eastern sages at His cradle
Make oblations rich and rare;
See them give, in deep devotion,
Gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Sacred gifts of mystic meaning:
Incense doth their God disclose;
Gold the King of Kings proclaimeth;
Myrrh His sepulcher foreshows.

Jesus, whom the Gentiles worshiped
At thy glad epiphany,
Unto Thee, with God the Father
And the Spirit, glory be.

Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (c. 348-413)
Translated by Edward Caswall (1814-1878)

Brown, Robert R. and Mark R. Norton compiled The One Year Book of Hymns (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1995), reading from December 11.

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Woodeene Koenig-Bricker connects finances with the spiritual life

“Learning to control our finances is an essential part of maturity. When we were children, our parents took care of all the financial arrangements, but as adults, the responsibility becomes ours. All too often, we find ourselves in debt because we confuse our wants with our needs. We begin to believe we can buy happiness, but happiness is only found in relationships–particularly in our relationship with God.

If you are feeling restless and unfulfilled, don’t run up your credit cards to fill empty places in your soul. Instead, use your financial resources to take care of your needs and then ask God to help you discover what’s missing from your life. It may be friendship. It may be intellectual stimulation. It may be love. Whatever it is, however, two things are certain: first, you won’t find it in any mall and second, only after you ask can God help make it a reality in your life.”

Koenig-Bricker, Woodeene 365 Saints: Your Daily Guide to the Wisdom and Wonder of their Lives by (New York: Harper San Francisco, 1995), October 16 entry.

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Mechtilde of Magdeburg: The Heavenly Sight of a Blind Saint

Lord, I thank you that in your love you have taken from me all earthly riches, and that you now clothe and feed me through the kindness of others.

Lord, I thank you, that since you have taken from me the sight of my eyes, you serve me now with the eyes of others.

Lord, I thank you that since you have taken away the power of my hands and my heart, you serve me by the hands and hearts of others.

Lord, I pray for them. Reward them for it in your heavenly love, that they may faithfully serve and please you till they reach a happy end.”

St. Mechtilde of Magdeburg (c. 1210-1285)

Woodeene Koenig-Bricker in Prayers of the Saints (New York: HarperCollins, 1996) 80-81.

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