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Treasures of the Fathers: Stewards of the Mysteries of God

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Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” After he had cast down their spirit, mark how again he refreshes it, saying, “as ministers of Christ.” Do not then, letting go the Master, receive a name from the servants and ministers. “Stewards;” he says, indicating that we ought not to give these things unto all, but unto whom it is due, and to whom it is fitting we should minister. “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful:” that is, that he does not appropriate to himself his master’s goods, that he does not as a master lay claim for himself but administer as a steward. For a steward’s part is to administer well the things committed to his charge: not to say that his master’s things are his own; but, on the contrary, that his own are his master’s. Let every one think on these things, both he that has power in speech and he that possesses wealth, namely, that he has been entrusted with a master’s goods and that they are not his own; let him not keep them with himself, or set them down to his own account; but let him impute them unto God who gave them all. Do you see faithful stewards? Hear what Peter says, “Why do you look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” (Acts 3:12) Unto Cornelius also he says, “We also are men of like passions with you:” and unto Christ Himself, “Lo, we have left all, and followed You.” (Mt 19:27) And Paul, no less, when he had said, “I labored more abundantly than they all,” (1 Cor 15:10) added, “yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Elsewhere also, setting himself strongly against the same persons, he said, “For what do you have which thou didst not receive?” “For you have nothing of your own, neither wealth, nor speech, nor life itself; for this also is surely the Lord’s. Wherefore, when necessity calls, lay down this also. But if you do on life, and being ordered to lay it down refuse to do so, you are no longer a faithful steward.”

“And how is it possible, when God calls, to resist?” Well, that is just what I say too: and on this account do I chiefly admire the loving-kindness of God, that the things which He is able, even against your will, to take from you, these He will not to be paid in by you unwillingly, that thou may have a reward besides. For instance, He can take away life without your consent; but His will is to do so with your consent, that you may say with Paul, “I die daily,” (1 Cor 15:31) He can take away your glory without your consent, and bring you low: but He will have it from you with your own goodwill, that thou may have a recompense. He can make you poor, though unwilling, but He will have you willingly become such, that He may weave crowns for you. Do you see God’s mercy to man? Do you see our own brutish stupidity?

What if you come to great dignity, and have at any time obtained some office of Church government? Be not high-minded. You have not acquired the glory, but God has put it on you. As if it were another’s, therefore, use it sparingly; neither abusing it nor using it upon unsuitable things, nor puffed up, nor appropriating it unto yourself; but esteem yourself to be poor and inglorious. For never, have you been entrusted with a king’s purple to keep,-never would it have become yours to abuse the robe and spoil it, but with the more exactness to keep it for the giver. Is utterance given to you? Do not be puffed up; do not be arrogant; for the gracious gift is not yours. Do not be grudging about your Master’s goods, but distribute them among your fellow-servants; and do not be elated with these things as if they were your own, nor be sparing as to the distribution of them. Again, if you have children, they are God’s which you have. If such be your thought, you will both be thankful for having them, and if bereft you will not take it hard. Such was Job when he said, “The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away.” (Job 1:21) For we have all things from Christ. Both existence itself we have through Him, and life, and breath, and light, and air, and earth. And if He were to exclude us from any one of these, we are lost and undone. For “we are sojourners and pilgrims”(1 Pet. 2:20). And all this about “mine,” and “yours,” is bare words only, and dos not stand for things. For if you do but say the house is yours, it is a word without a reality: since the very air, earth, matter, are the Creator’s; and so are you, yourself, who has framed it; and all other things also. But supposing the use to be yours, even this is uncertain, not on account of death alone, but also before death, because of the instability of things.

These things then continually picturing to ourselves, let us lead strict lives; and we shall gain two of the greatest advantages. For first, we shall be thankful both when we have and when we are bereaved; and we shall not be enslaved to things which are fleeting by, and things not our own. For whether it is wealth that He takes, He has taken but His own; or honor, or glory, or the body, or the life itself: be it that He takes away your son, it is not your son that He has taken, but His own servant. For you did not formed him, but He made him. You did but minister to his appearing; the whole was God’s own work. Let us give thanks therefore that we have been counted worthy to be His ministers in this matter. But what? Would you have had him forever? This again proves you grudging, and ignorant that it was another’s child which you had, and not you own. As therefore those who part resignedly are but aware that they have what was not theirs; so whoever gives way to grief is in fact counting the King’s property his own. For, if we are not our own, how can they be ours? I say, we: for in two ways we are His, both on account of our creation, and also on account of the faith. Wherefore David said, “My substance is with You:” (Ps 39: 7, Ps 139: 14) and Paul too, “For in Him we live and move and have our being:” (Acts 17:28) and plying the argument about the faith, he says, “You are not your own,” and “You were bought with a price.” (1 Cor 6:19 and 1 Cor 6:20) For all things are God’s. When then He calls and chooses to take, let us not, like grudging servants, fly from the reckoning, nor purloin our Master’s goods. Your soul is not yours; and how can your wealth be yours? How is it then that you spend on what is unnecessary the things which are not yours? Do you not know that for this we are soon to be put on our trial, that is, if we have used them badly? But seeing that they are not ours but our Master’s, it were right to expend them upon our fellow-servants. It is worth considering that the omission of this was the charge brought against that rich man: and against those also who had not given food to the Lord. (Lk 16:21, Mt 25:42)

 

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