HEADLINES OF THE DAY: ANOTHER 15,000 PEOPLE DIED YESTERDAY BECAUSE THEY WERE TOO POOR TO LIVE. THE RICH INCREASED THEIR WEALTH YESTERDAY BY $0.3 BILLION. THE 21st CENTURY VERSION OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION IS ONE DAY NEARER.
“O Ye rich ones on earth! The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease.”
A preview of the unpublished book A CIVILIZATION WITHOUT A VISION WILL PERISH: AN INDEPENDENT SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH by David Willis at email@example.com. CHAPTER 1: INDIFFERENCE TO POVERTY (Part 104). This blog is a review of ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM ON WEALTH AND POVERTY published by St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, New York in 1984.
St John of the golden mouth (Chryostom) lived, served and preached at a cross-roads in the history of the Christian Church. He was born about 350 A.D. at Antioch in Syria: a time not long after Constantine had established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, and a city where Greek civilization encountered the various cultures of the Near East. The church of Antioch was founded by St Paul, visited by St Peter, and adorned by the episcopate of St Ignatius the God-bearer (martyred about 107). Antioch was the third city of the empire until the rise of Constantinople, with a population of perhaps 300,000, mostly Greeks, but also Syrians, Phoenicians, Romans, Jews, and others. Christianity had to compete with a variety of religions, as well as with the secular attractions of the theaters and the race-course. Earthquakes and Persian invasions were persistent dangers. Antioch prospered because of its position on the trade routes; some families were very rich, though others were very poor, and a majority were in an adequate financial condition.
John was struck by the arrogance of the rich
John’s parents were Christians and prominent citizens. John received the standard education of late antiquity. His teacher Libanius was a famous rhetorician, whose public speeches attracted large audiences. John’s own sermons later became a similar form of public entertainment. His ethical teaching combines the spirit of the New Testament with the tradition of the Stoics and the Cynics, who taught that virtue was the only true good, and wisdom the only source of true freedom and true wealth. For twenty years he served the church of Antioch as reader, deacon, and priest. He knew from experience the sufferings of the poor and the sick, and was struck in contrast by the arrogance of the rich. His sermons were popular – though never as popular as the theater or the race course. The congregation often interrupted his preaching with applause, but did not necessarily put his advice into practice.
What does God expect of us, rich and poor?
During his preisthood in Antioch, St John preached his series of sermons on the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, perhaps in 388 or 389. The sixth sermon was preached after an earthquake, when it seemed timely to speak of God’s judgment and the necessity of choosing the right way of life before it was too late. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man enabled St John to treat several of his favorite themes. First of all, there is the age-old question, why do we see righteous people suffering while sinners live in prosperity? From this there follows the moral question, what does God expect of us, rich and poor? In more general terms, how do we attain salvation? The first four sermons treat the text of the parable verse by verse and discuss these questions along the way.