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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Chapter XXVI. How long standing an evil love of money is, is plain from many examples in the Old Testament. And yet it is plain, too, how idle a thing the possession of money is.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXVI.

How long standing an evil love of money is, is plain from many examples in the Old Testament. And yet it is plain, too, how idle a thing the possession of money is.

129. But man’s habits have so long applied themselves to this admiration of money, that no one is thought worthy of honour unless he is rich. 554 This is no new habit. Nay, this vice (and that makes the matter worse) grew long years ago in the hearts of men. When the city of Jericho fell at the sound of the priests’ trumpets, and Joshua the son of Nun gained the victory, he knew that the valour of the people was weakened through love of money and desire for gold. For when Achan had taken a garment of gold and two hundred shekels of silver and a golden ingot 555 from the spoils of the ruined city, he was brought before the Lord, and could not deny the theft, but owned it. 556

130. Love of money, then, is an old, an ancient vice, which showed itself even at the declaration of the divine law; for a law was given to check it. 557 On account of love of money Balak thought Balaam could be tempted by rewards to curse the people of our fathers. 558 Love of money would have won the day too, had not God bidden him hold back from cursing. Overcome by love of money Achan led to destruction all the people of the fathers. So Joshua the son of Nun, who could stay the sun from setting, could not stay the love of money in man from creeping on. At the sound of his voice the sun stood still, but love of money stayed not. When the sun stood still Joshua completed his triumph, but when love of money went on, he almost lost the victory.

131. Why? Did not the woman Delilah’s love of money deceive Samson, the bravest man of all? 559 So he who had torn asunder the roaring lion with his hands; 560 who, when bound and handed over to his enemies, alone, without help, burst his bonds and slew a thousand of them; 561 who broke the cords interwoven with sinews as though they were but the slight threads of a net; he, I say, having laid his head on the woman’s knee, was robbed of the decoration of his victory-bringing hair, that which gave him his might. Money flowed into the lap of the woman, and the favour of God forsook the man. 562

132. Love of money, then, is deadly. Seductive is money, whilst it also defiles those who have it, and helps not those who have it not. Supposing that money sometimes is a help, yet it is only a help to a poor man who makes his want known. What good is it to him who does not long for it, nor seek it; who does not need its help and is not turned aside by pursuit of it? What good is it to others, if he who has it is alone the richer for it? Is he therefore more honourable because he has that whereby honour is often lost, because he has what he must guard rather than possess? We possess what we use, but what is beyond our use brings us no fruit of possession, but only the danger of watching.


Footnotes

63:554

Cic. de Off. II. 20, § 71.

63:555

linguam auream.” Other readings are: “lineam auream,” or “regulam auream.

63:556

Josh. vii. 21.

63:557

Ex. xx. 17.

63:558

Num. xxii. 17.

63:559

Judg. xvi. 6.

63:560

Judg. xiv. 6.

63:561

Judg. 15:14, 15.

63:562

Judg. xvi. 20.


Next: Chapter XXVII. In contempt of money there is the pattern of justice, which virtue bishops and clerics ought to aim at together with some others. A few words are added on the duty of not bringing an excommunication too quickly into force.

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