Matthew Chapter 6, Verse 24
"No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and
love the other, or else he will hold to one and despise the other."
Seest thou how by degrees He withdraws us from the things that now are,
and at greater length introduces what He hath to say, touching voluntary
poverty, and casts down the dominion of covetousness?
For He was not contented with His former sayings, many and great as
they were, but He adds others also, more and more alarming.1
For what can be more alarming than what He now saith, if indeed we are
for our riches to fall from the service of Christ? or what more to be desired,
if indeed, by despising wealth, we shall have our affection towards Him
and our charity perfect?2 For what I am continually repeating, the same
do I now say likewise, namely, that by both kinds He presses the hearer
to obey His sayings; both by the profitable, and by the hurtful; much like
an excellent physician, pointing out both the disease which is the consequence
of neglect, and the good health which results from obedience.
See, for instance, what kind of gain He signifies this to be, and how
He establishes the advantage of it by their deliverance from the contrary
things. Thus, "wealth," saith He, "hurts you not in this only, that it
arms robbers against you, nor in that it darkens your mind in the most
intense degree, but also in that it casts you out of God's service, making
you captive of lifeless riches, and in both ways doing you harm, on the
one hand, by causing you to be slaves of what you ought to command; on
the other, by casting you out of God's service, whom, above all things,
it is indispensable for you to serve." For just as in the 'other place,
He signified the mischief to be twofold, in both laying up here, "where
moth corrupteth," and in not laying up there, where the watch kept is impregnable;
so in this place, too, He shows the loss to be twofold, in that it both
draws off from God, and makes us subject to mammon.
But He sets it not down directly, rather He establishes it first upon
general considerations, saying thus; "No man can serve two masters:" meaning
here two that are enjoining opposite things; since, unless this were the
case, they would not even be two. For so, "the multitude of them that believed
were of one heart and of one soul,"3 and yet were they divided into many
bodies; their unanimity however made the many one.
Then, as adding to the force of it, He saith, "so far from serving,
he will even hate and abhor:" "For either he will hate the one,"saith He,"
and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other."
And it seems indeed as if the same thing were said twice over; He did not
however choose this form without purpose, but in order to show that the
change for the better is easy. I mean, lest thou shouldest say, "I am once
for all made a slave; I am brought under the tyranny of wealth," He signifies
that it is possible to transfer one's self, and that as from the first
to the second, so also from the second one may pass over to the first.
2. Having thus, you see, spoken generally, that He might persuade the
hearer to be an uncorrupt judge of His words, and to sentence according
to the very nature of the things; when he hath made sure of his assent,
then, and not till then, He discovers Himself. Thus He presently adds,
"Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Let us shudder to think what we have
brought Christ to say; with the name of God, to put that of gold. But if
this be shocking, its taking place in our deeds, our preferring the tyranny
of gold to the fear of God, is much more shocking.
"What then? Was not this possible among the ancients?" By no means.
"How then," saith one, "did Abraham, how did Job obtain a good report?"
Tell me not of them that are rich, but of them that serve riches. Since
Job also was rich, but he served not mammon, but possessed it and ruled
over it, and was a master, not a slave. Therefore he so possessed all those
things, as if he had been the steward of another man's goods; not only
not extorting from others, but even giving up his own to them that were
in need. And what is more, when he had them they were no joy to him: so
he also declared, saying. "If I did so much as rejoice when my wealth waxed
great:"4 wherefore neither did he grieve when it was gone. But they that
are rich are not now such as he was, but are rather in a worse condition
than any slave, paying as it were tribute to some grievous tyrant. Because
their mind is as a kind of citadel occupied by the love of money, which
from thence daily sends out unto them its commands full of all iniquity,
and there is none to disobey. Be not therefore thus over subtle.5 Nay,
for God hath once for all declared and pronounced it a thing impossible
for the one service and the other to agree. Say not thou, then, "it is
possible." Why, when the one master is commanding thee to spoil by violence,
the other to strip thyself of thy possessions; the one to be chaste, the
other to commit fornication; the one to be drunken and luxurious, the other
to keep the belly in subjection; the one again to despise the things that
are, the other to be rivetted to the present; the one to admire marbles,
and walls, and roofs, the other to contemn these, but to honor self-restraint:
how is it possible that these should agree?
Now He calls mammon here "a master," not because of its own nature,
but on account of the wretchedness of them that bow themselves beneath
it. So also He calls "the belly a god,"6 not from the dignity of such a
mistress, but from the wretchedness of them that are enslaved: it being
a thing worse than any punishment, and enough, before the punishment, in
the way of vengeance on him who is involved in it. For what condemned criminals
can be so wretched, as they who having God for their Lord, do from that
mild rule desert to this grievous tyranny, and this when their act brings
after it so much harm even here? For indeed their loss is unspeakable by
so doing: there are suits, and molestations, and strifes, and toils, and
a blinding of the soul; and what is more grievous than all, one falls away
from the highest blessings; for such a blessing it is to be God's servant.
3. Having now, as you see, in all ways taught. the advantage of contemning
riches, as well for the very preservation of the riches, as for the pleasure
of the soul, and for acquiring self-command, and for the securing of godliness;
He proceeds to establish the practicability of this command. For this especially
pertains to the best legislation, not only to enjoin what is expedient,
but also to make it possible. Therefore He also goes on to say,
"Take no thought7 for your life,8 what ye shall eat."
That is, lest they should say, "What then? if we cast all away, how
shall we be able to live?" At this objection, in what follows, He makes
a stand, very seasonably. For as surely as if at the beginning He had said,
"Take no thought," the word would have seemed burdensome; so surely, now
that He hath shown the mischief arising out of covetousness, His admonition
coming after is made easy to receive. Wherefore neither did He now simply
say, "Take no thought," but He added the reason, and so enjoined this.
After having said, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon," He added, "therefore
I say unto you, take no thought. Therefore;" for what? Because of the unspeakable
loss. For the hurt you receive is not in riches only, rather the wound
is in the most vital parts, and in that which is the overthrow of your
salvation; casting you as it does out from God, who made you, and careth
for you, and loveth you.
"Therefore I say unto you, take no thought." Thus, after He hath shown
the hurt to be unspeakable, then and not before He makes the commandment
stricter; in that He not only bids us cast away what we have, but forbids
to take thought even for our necessary food, saying, "Take no thought for
your soul, what ye shall eat." Not because the soul needs food, for it
is incorporeal; but He spake according to the common custom. For though
it needs not food, yet can it not endure to remain in the body, except
that be fed. And in saying this, He puts it not simply so, but here also
He brings up arguments, some from those things which we have already, and
some from other examples.
From what we have already, thus saying:
"Is not the soul more than meat, and the body more than the raiment?"9
He therefore that hath given the greater, how shall He not give the
less? He that hath fashioned the flesh that is fed, how shall He not bestow
the food? Wherefore neither did He simply say, "Take no thought what ye
shall eat," or "wherewithal ye shall be clothed;" but, "for the body,"
and, "for the soul:" forasmuch as from them He was to make His demonstrations,
carrying on His discourse in the way of comparison. Now the soul He hath
given once for all, and it abides such as it is; but the body increases
every day. Therefore pointing out both these things, the immortality of
the one, and the frailty of the other, He subjoins and says,
"Which of you can add one cubit unto his stature?"10
Thus, saying no more of the soul, since it receives not increase, He
discoursed of the body only; hereby making manifest this point also, that
not the food increases it, but the providence of God. Which Paul showing
also in other ways, said, "So then, neither is he that planteth any thing,
neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase."11
From what we have already, then, He urges us in this way: and from examples
of other things, by saying, "Behold the fowls of the air."12 Thus, lest
any should say, "we do good by taking thought," He dissuades them both
by that which is greater, and by that which is less; by the greater, i.e.
the soul and the body; by the less, i.e. the birds. For if of the things
that are very inferior He hath so much regard, how shall He not give unto
you? saith He. And to them on this wise, for as yet it was an ordinary13
multitude: but to the devil not thus; but how? "Man shall not live by bread
alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."14 But
here He makes mention of the birds, and this in a way greatly to abash
them; which sort of thing is of very great value for the purpose of admonition.
4. However, some of the ungodly have come to so great a pitch of madness,
as even to attack His illustration. Because, say they, it was not meet
for one strengthening15 moral principle, to use natural advantages as incitements
to that end. For to those animals, they add, this belongs by nature. What
then shall we say to this? That even though it is theirs by nature, yet
possibly we too may attain it by choice. For neither did He say, "behold
how the birds fly," which were a thing impossible to man; but that they
are fed without taking thought, a kind of thing easy to be achieved by
us also, if we will. And this they have proved, who have accomplished it
in their actions.
Wherefore it were meet exceedingly to admire the consideration of our
Lawgiver, in that, when He might bring forward His illustration from among
men, and when He might have spoken of Moses and Elias and John, and others
like them, who took no thought; that He might touch them more to the quick,
He made mention of the irrational beings. For had He spoken of those righteous
men, these would have been able to say, "We are not yet become like them."
But now by passing them over in silence, and bringing forward the fowls
of the air, He hath cut off from them every excuse, imitating in this place
also the old law. Yea, for the old covenant likewise sends to the bee,
and to the ant,16 and to the turtle, and to the swallow.17 And neither
is this a small sign of honor, when the same sort of things, which those
animals possess by nature, those we are able to accomplish by an act of
our choice. If then He take so great care of them which exist for our sakes,
much more of us; if of the servants, much more of the master. Therefore
He said, "Behold the fowls," and He said not, "for they do not traffic,
nor make merchandise,"18 for these were among the things that were earnestly
forbidden. But what? "they sow not, neither do they reap." "What then?"
saith one, "must we not sow?" He said not, "we must not sow," but "we must
not take thought;" neither that one ought not to work, but not to be low-minded,
nor to rack one's self with cares. Since He bade us also be nourished,
but not in "taking thought."
Of this lesson David also lays the foundation from old time, saying
enigmatically on this wise, "Thou openest Thine hand, and fillest every
living thing with bounty;"19 and again, "To Him that giveth to the beasts
their food, and to the young ravens that call upon Him."20
"Who then," it may be said, "have not taken thought"? Didst thou not
hear how many of the righteous I adduced? Seest thou not with them Jacob,
departing from his father's house destitute of all things? Dost thou not
hear him praying and saying, "If the Lord give me bread to eat and raiment
to put on?"21 which was not the part of one taking thought, but of one
seeking all of God. This the apostles also attained, who cast away all,
and took no thought: also, the "five thousand," and the "three thousand."22
5. But if thou canst not bear, upon hearing so high words, to release
thyself from these grievous bonds, consider the unprofitableness of the
thing, and so put an end to thy care. For
"Which of you by taking thought" (saith He) "can add one cubit unto
Seest thou how by that which is evident, He hath manifested that also
which is obscure? Thus, "As unto thy body," saith He, "thou wilt not by
taking thought be able to add, though it be ever so little; so neither
to gather food; think as thou mayest otherwise." Hence it is clear that
not our diligence, but the providence of God, even where we seem to be
active, effects all. So that, were He to forsake us, no care, nor anxiety,
nor toil, nor any other such thing, will ever appear to come to anything,
but all will utterly pass away,
Let us not therefore suppose His injunctions are impossible: for there
are many who duly perform them, even as it is. And if thou knowest not
of them, it is nothing marvellous, since Elias too supposed he was alone,
but was told, "I have left unto myself seven thousand men."24 Whence it
is manifest that even now there are many who show forth the apostolical
life; like as the "three thousand" then, and the "five thousand."25 And
if we believe not, it is not because there are none who do well, but because
we are far from so doing. So that just as the drunkard would not easily
believe, that there exists any man who doth not taste even water (and yet
this hath been achieved by many solitaries in our time26 ); nor he who
connects himself with numberless women, that it is easy to live in virginity;
nor he that extorts other men's goods, that one shall readily give up even
his own: so neither will those, who daily melt themselves down with innumerable
anxieties, easily receive this thing.
Now as to the fact, that there are many who have attained unto this,
we might show it even from those, who have practised this self-denial even
in our generation.
But for you, just now, it is enough to learn not to covet, and that
almsgiving is a good thing; and to know that you must impart of what ye
have. For these things if thou wilt duly perform, beloved, thou wilt speedily
proceed to those others also.
6. For the present therefore let us lay aside our excessive sumptuousness,
and let us endure moderation, and learn to acquire by honest labor all
that we are to have: since even the blessed John, when he was discoursing
with those that were employed upon the tribute, and with the soldiery,
enjoined them "to be content with their wages."27 Anxious though he were
to lead them on to another, and a higher self-command, yet since they were
still unfit for this, he speaks of the lesser things. Because, if he had
mentioned what are higher than these, they would have failed to apply themselves
to them, and would have fallen from the others.
For this very reason we too are practising you28 in the inferior duties.
Yes, because as yet, we know, the burden of voluntary poverty is too great
for you, and the heaven is not more distant from the earth, than such self-denial
from you. Let us then lay hold, if it be only of the lowest commandments,
for even this is no small encouragement. And yet some amongst the heathens
have achieved even this, though not in a proper spirit, and have stripped
themselves of all their possessions.29 However, we are contented in your
case, if alms are bestowed abundantly by you; for we shall soon arrive
at those other duties too, if we advance in this way. But if we do not
so much as this, of what favor shall we be worthy, who are hidden to surpass
those under the old law, and yet show ourselves inferior to the philosophers
among the heathens? What shall we say, who when we ought to be angels and
sons of God, do not even quite maintain our being as men? For to spoil
and to covet comes not of the gentleness of men, but of the fierceness
of wild beasts; nay, worse than wild beasts are the assailers of their
neighbor's goods. For to them this comes by nature, but we who are honored
with reason, and yet are falling away unto that unnatural vileness, what
indulgence shall we receive?
Let us then, considering the measures of that discipline which is set
before us, press on at least to the middle station, that we may both be
delivered from the punishment which is to come, and proceeding regularly,
may arrive at the very summit of all good things; unto which may we all
attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to
whom be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
1 ["More in number and more terrible."-R.]
3 Acts iv. 32.
4 Job xxxi. 25.
5 [Mh\ toinun peritta\ filoso/fei.]
6 Phil. iii. 19.
7 [R. V., more correctly, "Be not anxious", and so throughout
8 th=| yuxh=| "your soul." [So Chrysostom interprets (see
below); but the New Testament passage must refer to physical life. In the
latter part of the verse the higher "life" is suggested. But to understand
the argument of Chrysostom, yuxh/must be rendered "soul" throughout this
9 Matt. vi. 25. [R. V., "Is not the life more than the
food," i. e., the food that sustains it.-R.]
10 Matt. vi. 27.
11 1 Cor. iii. 7.
12 Matt. vi. 26.
14 Matt. iv. 4.
16 Prov. vi. 6-8, LXX. See before, Hom. XVII., 6, note.
17 Jer. viii. 7.
18 kaphleu/ousin, e0mporeu/ontai : two words which in
the New Testament are always used in a bad sense.
19 Ps. cxlv. 16.
20 Ps. cxlvii. 9.
21 Gen. xxviii. 20.
22 Acts iv. 4, and ii. 41.
23 Matt. vi. 27.
24 1 Kings xix. 18; Rom. xi: 4.
25 Acts ii. 41, iv. 5.
26 See Sulpicius Severus Dial. i. c. 14. "It is told of
a certain holy man that he constantly and entirely abstained from all drink:
and that by way of food, he lived upon seven figs only."
27 Luke iii. 14.
28 [u/ma=j gumna/zomen, "we are exercising you."-R.]
29 So Aristippus: vid. Hom. Serm. 2, 3, 100.
Matthew Chapter 6, Verse 28 And Matthew Chapter 6, Verse 29
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not,
neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all
his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
Having spoken of our necessary food, and having signified that not even
for this should we take thought, He passes on in what follows to that which
is more easy. For raiment is not so necessary as food.
Why then did He not make use here also of the same example, that of
the birds, neither mention to us the peacock, and the swan, and the sheep?
for surely there were many such examples to take from thence. Because He
would point out how very far the argument may be carried both ways:1 both
from the vileness2 of the things that partake of such elegance, and from
the munificence vouchsafed to the lilies, in respect of their adorning.
For this cause, when He hath decked them out, He doth not so much as call
them lilies any more, but "grass of the field."3 And He is not satisfied
even with this name, but again adds another circumstance of vileness, saying,
"which to-day is." And He said not, "and to-morrow is not," but what is
much baser yet, "is east into the oven." And He said not, "clothe," but
Seest thou everywhere how He abounds in amplifications and intensities?
And this He doth, that He may touch them home: and therefore He hath also
added, "shall He not much more clothe you?" For this too hath much emphasis:
the force of the word, "you," being no other than to indicate covertly
the great value set upon our race, and the concern shown for it; as though
He had said, "you, to whom He gave a soul, for whom He fashioned a body,
for whose sake He made all the things that are seen, for whose sake He
sent prophets, and gave the law, and wrought those innumerable good works;
for whose sake He gave up His only begotten Son."
And not till He hath made His proof clear, doth He proceed also to rebuke
them, saying, "O ye of little faith." For this is the quality of an adviser:
He doth not admonish only, but reproves also, that He may awaken men the
more to the persuasive power of His words.
Hereby He teaches us not only to take no thought, but not even to be
dazzled at the costliness of men's apparel. Why, such comeliness is of
grass, such beauty of the green herb: or rather, the grass is even more
precious than such apparelling. Why then pride thyself on things, whereof
the prize rests with the mere plant, with a great balance in its favor?
And see how from the beginning He signifies the injunction to be easy;
by the contraries again, and by the things of which they were afraid, leading
them away from these cares. Thus, when He had said, "Consider the lilies
of the field," He added, "they toil not:" so that in desire to set us free
from toils, did He give these commands. In fact, the labor lies, not in
taking no thought, but in taking thought for these things. And as in saying,
"they sow not," it was not the sowing that He did away with, but the anxious
thought; so in saying, "they toil not, neither do they spin," He put an
end not to the work, but to the care.
But if Solomon was surpassed by their beauty, and that not once nor
twice, but throughout all his reign:-for neither can one say, that at one
time He was clothed with such apparel, but after that He was so no more;
rather not so much as on one day did He array Himself so beautifully: for
this Christ declared by saying, "in all his reign:" and if it was not that
He was surpassed by this flower, but vied with that, but He gave place
to all alike (wherefore He also said, "as one of these:" for such as between
the truth and the counterfeit, so great is the interval between those robes
and these flowers):-if then he acknowledged his inferiority, who was more
glorious than all kings that ever were: when wilt thou be able to surpass,
or rather to approach even faintly to such perfection of form?
After this He instructs us, not to aim at all at such ornament. See
at least the end thereof; after its triumph "it is cast into the oven:"
and if of things mean, and worthless, and of no great use, God hath displayed
so great care, how shall He give up thee, of all living creatures the most
Wherefore then did He make them so beautiful? That He might display
His own wisdom and the excellency of His power; that from everything we
might learn His glory. For not "the Heavens only declare the glory of God,"4
but the earth too; and this David declared when he said, "Praise the Lord,
ye fruitful trees, and all cedars."5 For some by their fruits, some by
their greatness, some by their beauty, send up praise to Him who made them:
this too being a sign of great excellency of wisdom, when even upon things
that are very vile (and what can be viler than that which to-day is, and
to-morrow is not?) He pours out such great beauty. If then to the grass
He hath given that which it needs not (for what doth the beauty thereof
help to the feeding of the fire?) how shall He not give unto thee that
which thou needest? If that which is the vilest of all things, He hath
lavishly adorned, and that as doing it not for need, but for munificence,
how much more will He honor thee, the most honorable of all things, in
matters which are of necessity.
2. Now when, as you see, He had demonstrated the greatness of God's
providential care, and they were in what follows to be rebuked also, even
in this He was sparing, laying to their charge not want, but poverty, of
faith. Thus, "if God," saith He, "so clothe the grass of the field, much
more you, O ye of little faith."6
And yet surely all these things He Himself works. For "all things were
made by Him, and without Him was not so much as one thing made."7 But yet
He nowhere as yet makes mention of Himself: it being sufficient for the
time, to indicate His full power, that He said at each of the commandments,
"Ye have heard that it hath been said to them of old time, but I say unto
Marvel not then, when in subsequent instances also He conceals Himself,
or speaks something lowly of Himself: since for the present He had but
one object, that His word might prove such as they would readily receive,
and might in every way demonstrate that He was not a sort of adversary
of God, but of one mind, and in agreement with the Father.
Which accordingly He doth here also; for through so many words as He
hath spent He ceases not to set Him before us, admiring His wisdom, His
providence, His tender care extending through all things, both great and
small. Thus, both when He was speaking of Jerusalem, He called it "the
city of the Great King;"8 and when He mentioned Heaven, He spake of it
again as "God's throne;"9 and when He was discoursing of His economy in
the world, to Him again He attributes it all, saying, "He maketh His sun
to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on
the unjust."10 And in the prayer too He taught us to say, His "is the kingdom
and the power and the: glory." And here in discoursing of His providence,
and signifying how even in little things He is the most excellent of artists,
He saith, that "He clothes the grass of the field." And nowhere doth He
call Him His own Father, but theirs; in order that by the very honor He
might reprove them, and that when He should call Him His Father, they might
no more be displeased.
Now if for bare necessaries one is not to take thought, what pardon
can we11 deserve, who take thought for things expensive? Or rather, what
pardon can they deserved who do even without sleep, that they may take
the things of others?
3. "Therefore take no thought, saying, what shall we eat? or, what shall
we drink? or, wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things
do the nations of the world seek."12
Seest thou how again He hath both shamed them the more, and hath also
shown by the way, that He had commanded nothing grievous nor burdensome?
As therefore when He said, "If ye love them which love you," it is nothing
great which ye practise, for the very Gentiles do the same; by the mention
of the Gentiles He was stirring them up to something greater: so now also
He brings them forward to reprove us, and to signify that it is a necessary
debt which He is requiring of us. For if we must show forth something more
than the Scribes or Pharisees, what can we deserve, who so far from going
beyond these, do even abide in the mean estate of the Gentiles, and emulate
their littleness of soul?
He doth not however stop at the rebuke, but having by this reproved
and roused them, and shamed them with all strength of expression, by another
argument He also comforts them, saying, "For your Heavenly Father knoweth
that ye have need of all these things." He said not, "God knoweth," but,
"your Father knoweth;" to lead them to a greater hope. For if He be a Father,
and such a Father, He will not surely be able to overlook His children
in extremity of evils; seeing that not even men, being fathers, bear to
And He adds along with this yet another argument. Of what kind then
is it? That "ye have need" of them. What He saith is like this. What! are
these things superfluous, that He should disregard them? Yet not even in
superfluities did He show Himself wanting in regard, in the instance of
the grass: but now are these things even necessary. So that what thou considerest
a cause for thy being anxious, this I say is sufficient to draw thee from
such anxiety. I mean, if thou sayest, "Therefore I must needs take thought,
because they are necessary;" on the contrary, I say, "Nay, for this self-same
reason take no thought, because they are necessary." Since were they superfluities,
not even then ought we to despair, but to feel confident about the supply
of them; but now that they are necessary, we must no longer be in doubt.
For what kind of father is he, who can endure to fail in supplying to his
children even necessaries? So that for this cause again God will most surely
For indeed He is the artificer of our nature, and He knows perfectly
the wants thereof. So that neither canst thou say, "He is indeed our Father,
and the things we seek are necessary, but He knows not that we stand in
need of them." For He that knows our nature itself, and was the framer
of it, and formed it such as it is; evidently He knows its need also better
than thou, who art placed in want of them: it having been by His decree,
that our nature is in such need. He will not therefore oppose Himself to
what He hath willed, first subjecting it of necessity to so great want,
and on the other hand again depriving it of what it wants, and of absolute
Let us not therefore be anxious, for we shall gain nothing by it, but
tormenting ourselves. For whereas He gives both when we take thought, and
when we do not, and more of the two, when we do not; what dost thou gain
by thy anxiety, but to exact of thyself a superfluous penalty? Since one
on the point of going to a plentiful feast, will not surely permit himself
to take thought for food; nor is he that is walking to a fountain anxious
about drink. Therefore seeing we have a supply more copious than either
any fountain, or innumerable banquets made ready, the providence of God;
let us not be beggars, nor little minded.
4. For together with what hath been said, He puts also yet another reason
for feeling confidence about such things, saying,
"Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven, and all these things shall be added
Thus when He had set the soul free from anxiety, then He made mention
also of Heaven. For indeed He came to do away with the old things, and
to call us to a greater country. Therefore He doeth all, to deliver us
from things unnecessary, and from our affection for the earth. For this
cause He mentioned the heathens also, saying that "the Gentiles seek after
these things;" they whose whole labor is for the present life, who have
no regard for the things to come, nor any thought of Heaven. But to you
not these present are the chief things,14 but other than these. For we
were not born for this end, that we should eat and drink and be clothed,
but that we might please God, and attain unto the good things to come.
Therefore as things here are secondary in our labor, so also in our prayers
let them be secondary. Therefore He also said, "Seek ye the kingdom of
Heaven, and all these things shall be added unto you."
And He said not, "shall be given," but "shall be added," that thou mightest
learn, that the things present are no great part of His gifts, compared
with the greatness of the things to come. Accordingly, He doth not bid
us so much as ask for them, but while we ask for other things, to have
confidence, as though these also were added to those. Seek then the things
to come, and thou wilt receive the things present also; seek not the things
that are seen, and thou shalt surely attain unto them. Yea, for it is unworthy
of thee to approach thy Lord for such things. And thou, who oughtest to
spend all thy zeal and thy care for those unspeakable blessings, dost greatly
disgrace thyself by consuming it on the desire of transitory things.
"How then?" saith one, "did He not bid us ask for bread?" Nay, He added,
"daily," and to this again, "this day," which same thing in fact He doth
here also. For He said not, "Take no thought," but, "Take no thought for
the morrow," at the same time both affording us liberty, and fastening
our soul on those things that are more necessary to us.
For to this end also He bade us ask even those, not as though God needed
reminding by us, but that we might learn that by His help we accomplish
whatever we do accomplish, and that we might be made more His own by our
continual prayer for these things.
Seest thou how by this again He would persuade them, that they shall
surely receive the things present? For He that bestows the greater, much
more will He give the less. "For not for this end," saith He, "did I tell
you not to take thought nor to ask, that ye should suffer distress, and
go about naked, but in order that ye might be in abundance of these things
also:" and this, you see, was suited above all things to attract them to
Him. So that like as in almsgiving, when deterring them from making a display
to men, he won upon them chiefly by promising to furnish them with it more
liberally;-"for thy Father," saith He, "who seeth in secret, shall reward
thee openly;"15 -even so here also, in drawing them off from seeking these
things, this is His persuasive topic, that He promises to bestow it on
them, not seeking it, in greater abundance. Thus, to this end, saith He,
do I bid thee not seek, not that thou mayest not receive, but that thou
mayest receive plentifully; that thou mayest receive in the fashion16 that
becomes thee, with the profit which thou oughtest to have; that thou mayest
not, by taking thought, and distracting thyself in anxiety about these,
render thyself unworthy both of these, and of the things spiritual; that
thou mayest not undergo unnecessary distress, and again fall away from
that which is set before thee.
5. "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for sufficient unto the
day is the evil thereof:" that is to say, the affliction, and the bruising
thereof.17 Is it not enough for thee, to eat thy bread in the sweat of
thy face? Why add the further affliction that comes of anxiety, when thou
art on the point to be delivered henceforth even from the former toils?
By "evil" here He means, not wickedness, far from it, but affliction,
and trouble, and calamities; much as in another place also He saith, "Is
there evil in a city, which the Lord hath not done?"18 not meaning rapines,
nor injuries,19 nor any thing like these, but the scourges which are borne
from above. And again, "I," saith He, "make peace, and create evils:"20
For neither in this place doth He speak of wickedness,21 but of famines,
and pestilences, things accounted evil by most men: the generality being
wont to call these things evil. Thus, for example, the priests and prophets
of those five lordships, when having yoked the kine to the ark, they let
them go without their calves,22 gave the name of "evil" to those heaven-sent
plagues, and the dismay and anguish which thereby sprang up within them.
This then is His meaning here also, when He saith, "sufficient unto
the day is the evil thereof." For nothing so pains the soul, as carefulness
and anxiety. Thus did Paul also, when urging to celibacy, give counsel,
saying, "I would have you without carefulness."23
But when He saith, "the morrow shall take thought for itself," He saith
it not, as though the day took thought for these things, but forasmuch
as He had to speak to a people somewhat imperfect, willing to make what
He saith more expressive, He personifies the time, speaking unto them according
to the custom of the generality.
And here indeed He advises, but as He proceeds, He even makes it a law,
saying, "provide neither gold nor silver, nor scrip for your journey."24
Thus, having shown it all forth in His actions, then after that He introduces
the verbal enactment of it more determinately, the precept too having then
become more easy of acceptance, confirmed as it had been previously by
His own actions. Where then did He confirm it by His actions? Hear Him
saying, "The Son of Man hath not where to lay His head."25 Neither is He
satisfied with this only, but in His disciples also He exhibits His full
proof of these things, by fashioning them too in like manner, yet not suffering
them to be in want of anything.
But mark His tender care also, how He surpasses the affection of any
father. Thus, "This I command," saith He, "for nothing else. but that I
may deliver you from superfluous anxieties. For even if to-day thou hast
taken thought for to-morrow, thou wilt also have to take thought again
to-morrow. Why then what is over and above? Why force the day to receive
more than the distress which is allotted to it, and together with its own
troubles add to it also the burden of the following day; and this, when
there is no chance of thy lightening the other by the addition so taking
place, but thou art merely to exhibit thyself as coveting superfluous troubles?"
Thus, that He may reprove them the more, He doth all but give life to the
very time, and brings it in as one injured, and exclaiming against them
for their causeless despite. Why, thou hast received the day, to care for
the things thereof. Wherefore then add unto it the things of the other
day also? Hath it not then burden enough in its own anxiety? Why now, I
pray, dost thou make it yet heavier? Now when the Lawgiver saith these
things, and He that is to pass judgment on us, consider the hopes that
He suggests to us, how good they are; He Himself testifying, that this
life is wretched and wearisome, so that the anxiety even of the one day
is enough to hurt and afflict us.
6. Nevertheless, after so many and so grave words, we take thought for
these things, but for the things in Heaven no longer: rather we have reversed
His order, on either side fighting against His sayings. For mark; "Seek
ye not the things, present," saith He, "at all;" but we are seeking these
things for ever: "seek the things in Heaven," saith He; but those things
we seek not so much as for a short hour, but according to the greatness
of the anxiety we display about the things of the world, is the carelessness
we entertain in things spiritual; or rather even much greater. But this
doth not prosper for ever; neither can this be for ever. What if for ten
days we think scorn? if for twenty? if for an hundred? must we not of absolute
necessity depart, and fall into the hands of the Judge?
"But the delay hath comfort." And what sort of comfort, to be every
day looking for punishment and vengeance? Nay, if thou wouldest have some
comfort from this delay, take it by gathering for thyself the fruit of
amendment after repentance. Since if the mere delay of vengeance seem to
thee a sort of refreshment, far more is it gain not to fall into the vengeance.
Let us then make full use of this delay, in order to have a full deliverance
from the dangers that press upon us. For none of the things enjoined is
either burdensome or grievous, but all are so light and easy, that it we
only bring a genuine purpose of heart, we may accomplish all, though we
be chargeable with countless offenses. For so Manasses had perpetrated
innumerable pollutions, having both stretched out his hands against the
saints, and brought abominations into the temple, and filled the city with
murders, and wrought many other things beyond excuse; yet nevertheless
after so long and so great wickedness, he washed away from himself all
these things.26 How and in what manner? By repentance, and consideration.
For there is not, yea, there is not any sin, that doth not yield and
give way to the power of repentance, or rather to the grace of Christ.
Since if we would but only change, we have Him to assist us. And if thou
art desirous to become good, there is none to hinder us; or rather there
is one to hinder us, the devil, yet hath he no power, so long as thou choosest
what is best, and so attractest God to thine aid. But if thou art not thyself
willing, but startest aside, how shall He protect thee? Since not of necessity
or compulsion, but of thine own will, He wills thee to be saved. For if
thou thyself, having a servant full of hatred and aversion for thee, and
continually going off, and fleeing away from thee, wouldest not choose
to keep him, and this though needing his services; much less will God,
who doeth all things not for His own profit, but for thy salvation, choose
to retain thee by compulsion; as on the other hand, if thou show forth
a right intention only, He would not choose ever to give thee up, no, not
whatever the devil may do. So that we are ourselves to blame for our own
destruction. Because we do not approach, nor beseech, nor entreat Him,
as we ought: but even if we do draw nigh, it is not as persons who have
need to receive, neither is it with the proper faith, nor as making demand,
but we do all in a gaping and listless way.
7. And yet God would have us demand things of Him, and for this accounts
Himself greatly bound to thee.27 For He alone of all debtors, when the
demand is made, counts it a favor, and gives what we have not lent Him.
And if He should see him pressing earnestly that makes the demand, He pays
down even what He hath not received of us; but if sluggishly, He too keeps
on making delays; not through unwillingness to give, but because He is
pleased to have the demand made upon Him by us. For this cause He told
thee also the example of that friend, who came by night, and asked a loaf;28
and of the judge that feared not God, nor regarded men.29 And He stayed
not at similitudes, but signified it also in His very actions, when He
dismissed that Phoenician woman, having filled her with His great gift.30
For through her He signified, that He gives to them that ask earnestly,
even the things that pertain not to them. "For it is not meet," saith He,
"to take the children's bread, and to give31 it unto the dogs." But for
all that He gave, because she demanded of him earnestly. But by the Jews
He showed, that to them that are careless, He gives not even their own.
They accordingly received nothing, but lost what was their own. And while
these, because they asked not, did not receive so much as their very own;
she, because she assailed Him with earnestness, had power to obtain even
what pertained to others, and the dog received what was the children's.
So great a good is importunity. For though thou be a dog, yet being importunate,
thou shalt be preferred to the child being negligent: for what things affection
accomplishes not, these, all of them, importunity did accomplish. Say not
therefore, "God is an enemy to me, and will not hearken." He doth straightway
answer thee, continually troubling him, if not because thou art His friend,
yet because of thine importunity. And neither the enmity, or the unseasonable
time, nor anything else becomes an hindrance. Say not, "I am unworthy,
and do not pray;" for such was the Syrophoenician woman too. Say not, "I
have sinned much, and am not able to entreat Him whom I have angered;"
for God looks not at the desert, but at the disposition. For if the ruler
that feared not God, neither was ashamed of men, was overcome by the widow,
much more will He that is good be won over by continual entreaty.
So that though thou be no friend, though thou be not demanding thy due,
though thou hast devoured thy Father's substance, and have been a long
time out of sight, though without honor, though last of all, though thou
approach Him angry, though much displeased; be willing only to pray, and
to return, and thou shalt receive all, and shall quickly extinguish the
wrath and the condemnation.
But, "behold, I pray," saith one, "and there is no result." Why, thou
prayest not like those; such I mean as the Syrophoenician woman, the friend
that came late at night, and the widow that is continually troubling the
judge, and the son that consumed his father's goods. For didst thou so
pray, thou wouldest quickly obtain. For though despite have been done unto
Him, yet is He a Father; and though He have been provoked to anger, yet
is He fond of His children; and one thing only doth He seek, not to take
vengeance for our affronts, but to see thee repenting and entreating Him.
Would that we were warmed in like measure, as those bowels are moved to
the love of us. But this fire seeks a beginning only, and if thou afford
it a little spark, thou kindlest a full flame of beneficence. For not because
He hath been insulted, is He sore vexed, but because it is thou who art
insulting Him, and so becoming frenzied. For if we being evil, when our
children molest32 us, grieve on their account; much more is God, who cannot
so much as suffer insult, sore vexed on account of thee, who hast committed
it. If we, who love by nature, much more He, who is kindly affectioned
beyond nature. "For though," saith He, "a woman should forget the fruits
of her womb, yet will I not forget thee."33
8. Let us therefore draw nigh unto Him, and say, "Truth, Lord; for even
the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."34 Let
us draw nigh "in season, out of season:" or rather, one can never draw
nigh out of season, for it is unseasonable not to be continually approaching.
For of Him who desires to give it is always seasonable to ask: yea, as
breathing is never out of season, so neither is praying unseasonable, but
rather not praying. Since as we need this breath, so do we also the help
that comes from Him; and if we be willing, we shall easily draw Him to
us. And the prophet, to manifest this, and to point out the constant readiness
of His beneficence, said, "We shall find Him prepared as the morning."35
For as often as we may draw nigh, we shall see Him awaiting our movements.
And if we fail to draw from out of His ever-springing goodness, the blame
is all ours. This, for example, was His complaint against certain Jews,
when He said, "My mercy is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it
goeth away."36 And His meaning is like this; "I indeed have supplied all
my part, but ye, as a hot sun coming over scatters both the cloud and the
dew, and makes them vanish, so have ye by your great wickedness restrained
the unspeakable Beneficence."
Which also itself again is an instance of providential care: that even
when He sees us unworthy to receive good, He withholds His benefits, lest
He render us careless. But if we change a little, even but so much as to
know that we have sinned, He gushes out beyond the fountains, He is poured
forth beyond the ocean; and the more thou receivest, so much the more doth
He rejoice; and in this way is stirred up again to give us more. For indeed
He accounts it as His own wealth, that we should be saved, and that He
should give largely to them that ask. And this, it may seem, Paul was declaring
when He said, that He is "rich unto all and over all that call upon Him."37
Because when we pray not, then He is wroth; when we pray not, then doth
He turn away from us. For this cause "He became poor, that He might make
us rich;"38 for this cause He underwent all those sufferings, that He might
incite us to ask.
Let us not therefore despair, but having so many motives and good hopes,
though we sin every day, let us approach Him, entreating, beseeching, asking
the forgiveness of our sins. For thus we shall be more backward to sin
for the time to come; thus shall we drive away the devil, and shall call
forth the lovingkindness of God, and attain unto the good things to come,
by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be
glory and might forever and ever. Amen.