$$ Matters and Stewardship

(This is a blog series following the high-school Awana Journey curriculum of 2016, available from Awana.org . Click here to return to the other posts in the series.)

As I read these two lessons, I was reminded of a writing from Clement of Alexandria, titled “Who is the Rich Man that Will Be Saved?” Clement was a well-regarded Christian thinker who wrote in approximately 180AD.

You can read the entirety of Clement’s work, (here, written in the rhetorical style of the second-century and verbiage from the 18th century translation) or read a highly condensed and paraphrased version in modern English, courtesy of Christianity Today (here).  I’ve included an excerpt of the paraphrase below:

…instead of thinking the rich have no hope or that they have no problem, learn how to use wealth in order to gain eternal life. First, love God. That means we should treasure him more highly than anything else. Second, love your neighbor, your Christian neighbor. That means give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, lodging to the stranger, clothes to the naked, medicine to the sick, and company to the imprisoned. The wealth in your power is not your own, therefore do not wait for Christians in need to ask you for help. Seek them out! As eagerly as a merchant looks for a new market, so should you seek out the needy. And do not ask which Christian is worthy and which is not. You may be wrong in your judgment and thereby deprive someone who needs your help. It is better to take the risk of giving to the undeserving than to take the risk of neglecting the deserving. In giving to these penniless, ragged, ugly, and feeble brothers you are hiring warriors and guards for your soul. One of them can obtain your pardon from God, another can comfort you when sick, a third can pray for you. One of them can teach you about salvation, another can admonish you with confidence, and a third can counsel you with kindness. All can love truly.

As a further motivation to give, remember that Jesus gave his all to save us. For each of us he gave his life. Because he gave up his life for us, he demands we give our lives for each other. If we owe our very lives to our brothers, shall we hoard our wealth, and keep it away from them? Shall we keep things away from each other only to have those things burn at the end of the world? No, no! If we do not love our brothers, we are children of the devil and heading for the flames ourselves.

But the true Christian loves his brothers! Love seeks not her own, but is diffused on the brother. About the brother, love is moved with compassion, about him she is soberly insane! And, as Paul tells us, love is the only thing that lasts.

If you decide to read the Christianity Today article in full (which I highly recommend), I want to offer a few notes of clarification:

  1. The preface of the Christianity Today article implies (fallaciously) that because we have no extant writings from the first hundred years of Christianity dealing with money, the issue was therefore not addressed, and Clement decided for himself to tackle the subject and provide guidance. The idea that Clement created a new approach to money seems highly unlikely; it is most likely that the apostles and early bishops and pastors did present a cohesive teaching on how to use one’s money for the kingdom of God as they discipled Christians in the faith received once-and-for-all. Clement, then, was probably bringing these preexisting concepts into written form with his own eloquence.
  2. When Clement refers to “the Word”, he is speaking of Christ.
  3. Clement speaks of doing things to obtain eternal life. While this may jar us Protestants, Clement is answering the rich young ruler’s question “What must I do to obtain eternal life?” with Jesus’ answer in mind. Also, consider Jesus’ description of judgment in Matthew 25 – “When I was hungry, you fed me/didn’t feed me.”
  4. We see from Clement’s usage that he understands the expression “eye of a needle” to a literal needle, not a small gate in Jerusalem. The story of a gate which a camel had to crawl through on its knees is a myth invented in the 1960’s without any evidence. Jesus was referring to a camel going through a sewing needle – something “impossible for man, but possible for God,” not something merely difficult.