What does it mean to love God? The rich man in the Gospel reading today thought he had it figured out. (Luke 18:8-27) He followed the law letter by letter but was a scrooge with his wealth. Well, many of us set boundaries with our Christianity that are a bit too safe and end up building an idol separating us from God. But there is nothing wrong with wealth, however there is something wrong about being stingy and there is something wrong with loving something or someone more than God.
Some years ago when I joined the work force in a full-time position, my older colleagues started to impress on me the need to start saving for my future. In our country we have a government program called social security which is supposed to be a federal insurance program to help care for the retirees. But even in my generation there has been doubt that it would not still exist when I reach my golden years. And even if when the time comes and if it has not been robbed of all the monies that have been deducted out of our paychecks, will it then be enough to meet all our financial needs as the cost of living continues to soar. When is enough, enough?
So where is this line between overfilling my storehouse (Luke 12:18) and investing my five talents (Matt 25:20-21) wisely? We are to be people of moderation with the exception of our love for God. St Issac the Syrian says: “He who is master of possessions, is the slave of passions. Do not estimate gold and silver only as possessions, but all things thou possess for the sake of the desire of thy will.” (“Six Treatise on the Behavior of Excellence,” IV, Mystic Treatises By Isaac Of Nineveh )
Be about your Father’s business all the time and as St. John Chrysostom writes: “Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead.” In addition, St. Luke instructs us to: “Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) And for those of us who say they have barely enough as it is Saint Dorotheos writes no one can say: “I am poor and hence I have no means of giving alms.” For even if you cannot give as the rich gave their gifts into the temple treasury, give two farthings as the poor widow did, and from you God will consider it greater gift than the gifts of the rich. And if you do not have as much as two farthings, you can take pity on the sick and give alms by ministering to them. And if you cannot do even this, you can comfort your brother by your words. “A good word is better than the best of gifts.”
In this season of the St. Philip’s fast as we make our way to Bethlehem to prepare for the birth of our Savior, let us remember that we were all born without possessions. And although we had nothing, we had everything! We were born with the greatest possibility, the greatest treasure known to mankind. We were born with the wealth of love from our Father and the path to that wealth is the return to our unstained birth, free from the wounds life has brought us. And this return is by faith, trusting in the One who loves us and has been working for the good in our lives. Don’t be a sour-faced scrooge! Surrender, and let Him touch your brokenness. Surrender, and love your neighbor. “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts.” Surrender, “and with faith, draw nigh!” (James 4”8)
Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-16-2018