Catholic Encyclopedia
Church Fathers
Classics Library
Church Documents
Prayer Requests
Ray of Hope
Social Doctrine

A Commentary Upon The Gospel According To Saint Luke -St. Cyril

He that is faithful in little, is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in little, is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will give you the true? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two lords: for either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will honour the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

THE moat distinguished and experienced teachers, when they wish to fix any important doctrine deep in the minds of their disciples, omit no kind of reasoning able to throw light upon the chief object of their thoughts; at one time weaving arguments together, at another employing apposite examples, and so gathering from every quarter whatever is serviceable for their use. And this we find Christ also, Who is the Giver unto us of all wisdom, doing in many places. For oftentimes He repeats the very same arguments upon the subject, whatever it may be, that the mind of those who hear may be led on to an exact understanding of His words. For look again, I pray, at the purport of the lessons set before us: for so thou wilt find our words to be true. “He that is faithful in little,” He says, “is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in little, is unjust also in much.”

Before, however, I proceed further, I think it would be useful to consider, what was the occasion of a discourse such as this, and from what root it sprung: for so the sense of what is said will become very evident. Christ then was teaching the rich to feel especial delight in shewing kindness to the poor, and in opening their hand to whoever are in need, so laying up treasures in heaven, and taking forethought for the riches that are in store. For He said, “Make for yourselves friends of the unrighteous mammon: that when it has failed, they may receive you into eternal tabernacles.” But as being God by nature, He well knew the slothfulness of the human mind in every earnest and good work. It escaped not His knowledge, that men, in their greediness after wealth, giving up their mind to the love of lucre, and being tyrannized over by this passion, become hard-hearted and unsympathizing with affliction, and shew no kindness whatsoever to the poor, even though they have heaped up much wealth in their stores. That those therefore who are thus minded, have no share in God’s spiritual gifts, He shews by most evident examples, and says, “He that is faithful in little, is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in little, is unjust also in much.” O Lord, explain unto us the meaning: open Thou the eye of our heart. Listen therefore while He explains clearly and exactly what He said. “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will give you the true?” The little therefore is the unrighteous mammon: that is, worldly wealth, gathered often by extortion and covetousness. But those who know how to live virtuously, and thirst after the hope that is in store, and withdraw their mind from earthly things, and think rather of those things that are above, utterly disregard earthly wealth; for it offers nothing but pleasures, and voluptuousness, and base carnal lusts, and splendour that profiteth not, but is transitory and vain. And so one of the holy apostles teaches us, saying, “That all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of the world.” But such things as these are absolutely nothing to those who lead a sober and virtuous life: for they are trifling, and temporary, and full of impurity, and provocative of the fire and judgment, and scarcely reaching to the end of the life of the body, even if they do not, when any danger suddenly befalls those that possess them, unexpectedly depart away. Christ’s disciple therefore rebukes the rich, saying, “Come now, ye rich men, weep, and lament over the miseries that are coming upon you. Your wealth is decayed, your garments are motheaten. Tour gold and your silver are rusted, and the rust of them shall be your testimony.” How then are the gold and silver rusted? By being stored up in excessive abundance; and this very thing is the witness against them before the divine judgment seat, of their being unmerciful. For having gathered into their treasuries a great and unnecessary abundance, they made no account of those who were in need, although it was in their power, had they so wished, to do good easily to many; but they were not “faithful in the little.”

But in what way men may become faithful, the Saviour Himself next taught us: and I will explain how. A certain Pharisee besought Him to eat bread with him on the sabbath day, and Christ consented: and having gone there, He sat down to meat: and there were many others also feasting with them. And none of them by any means resembled men who possessed nothing, but, on the contrary, they were all persons of distinction, and great haughtiness, and lovers of the foremost seats, and thirsting after vainglory, being clothed as it were in the pride of wealth. What then said Christ to His inviter? “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours, lest they also invite thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And thou shalt be blessed, because they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” This then I think is a man’s being faithful in little, that he have pity upon those who are in need, and distribute assistance from his means to such as are in extreme distress. But we, despising a way thus glorious and sure of reward, choose one dishonourable and without reward, by treating with contempt those who are in utter poverty, and refusing even sometimes to admit their words into our ears; while, on the other hand, we luxuriously provide a costly table, either for friends who live in pomp, or for those whose habit it is to praise and flatter, making our bounty an occasion for indulging our love of praise. But this was not God’s purpose in permitting us to possess wealth. If therefore we are unfaithful in the little, by not conforming ourselves to the will of God, and bestow the best portion of ourselves upon our pleasures and our boasts, how can we receive from Him that which is true? And what is this? The abundant bestowal of those divine gifts which adorn man’s soul, and form in it a godlike beauty. This is the spiritual wealth, not that fattens the flesh, which is held by death, but rather that saves the soul, and makes it worthy of emulation, and honourable before God, and that wins for it true praises.

It is our duty therefore to be faithful unto God, pure in heart, merciful and kind, just and holy: for these things imprint in us the outlines of the divine likeness, and perfect us as heirs of eternal life. And this then is that which is true.

And that this is the purport and view of the Saviour’s words, any one may readily learn from what follows. For He said, “If ye have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” And again, we say that which is another’s is the wealth we possess. For we were not born with riches, but, on the contrary, naked; and can truly affirm in the words of Scripture, “that we neither brought anything into the world, nor can carry anything out.” For the patient Job also has said something of this kind: “Naked was I born from my mother’s womb; naked also shall I go onwards.” It is therefore no man’s own by right of nature that he is rich, and lives in abundant wealth: but it is a thing added on from without, and is a chance matter; and if it cease and perish, it in no respect whatsoever harms the definitions of human nature. For it is not by virtue of our being rich that we are reasonable beings, and skilful in every good work: but it is the property of our nature to be capable of these things. That therefore, as I said, is another’s which is not contained in the definitions of our nature, but, on the contrary, is manifestly added to us from without. But it is our own, and the property of human nature to be fitted for every good work: for as the blessed Paul writes, “We have been created unto good works, which God hath before prepared, that we should walk in them.”

When therefore any are unfaithful in that which is another’s, in those things namely, which are added unto them from without, how shall they receive that which is their own? How, that is, shall they be made partakers of the good things which God gives, which adorn the soul of man, and imprint upon it a divine beauty, spiritually formed in it by righteousness and holiness, and those upright deeds which are done in the fear of God.

Let such of us then as possess earthly wealth open our hearts to those who are in need; let us shew ourselves faithful and obedient to the laws of God, and followers of our Lord’s will in those things which are from without, and not our own, that we may receive that which is our own, even that holy and admirable beauty which God forms in the souls of men, fashioning them like unto Himself, according to what we originally were.

And that it is a thing impossible for one and the same person to divide himself between contraries, and still be able to live blamelessly, He shews by saying, “No man can serve two lords: for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or he will honour the one, and despise the other.” And this indeed is a plain and evident example, and very suitable for the elucidation of the subject before us. For that which follows is, so to speak, the conclusion of the whole argument: “for ye cannot serve God and mammon.” For if, He says, a man be a slave of two masters, of diverse and contrary wills, and whose minds are irreconcilable with one another, how can he please them both? For being divided in endeavouring to do that which each one approves, he is in opposition to the will of both: and so the same person must inevitably appear bad and good. If therefore, He says, he determine to be true to the one, he will hate the other, and set him of course at nought. It is not therefore possible to serve God and mammon. For the unrighteous mammon, by which wealth is signified, is a thing given up to voluptuousness, and liable to every reproach, engendering boasting, and the love of pleasure, making men stiffnecked, the friends of the wicked, and contemptuous: yea, what base vice doth it not produce in them that possess it?

But the goodwill of God renders men gentle, and quiet, and lowly in their thoughts; longsuffering, and merciful, and of exemplary patience, not loving lucre, nor desirous of wealth, content with food only and raiment, and especially fleeing from “the love of money, which is the root of all evils:” joyfully undertaking toils for piety’s sake; fleeing from the love of pleasure, and earnestly shunning all feeling of wearisomeness in good works, while constantly they value, as that which wins them reward, the endeavour to live uprightly, and the practice of all soberness. This is that which is our own, and the true. This God will bestow on those who love poverty, and know how to distribute to those who are in need that which is another’s, and comes from without, even their wealth, which also has the name of mammon.

May it then be far from the mind of each of us to be its slaves, that so we may freely and without hindrance bow the neck of our mind to Christ the Saviour of us all; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen.

Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com