The Greatness of God’s Philanthropy

From “Who is the Rich Man That Will be Saved” (ca. 200)

Perhaps the reason salvation appears more difficult to the rich than to the poor, is not single but manifold. For some, merely hearing, and that in an off-hand way, the utterance of the Savior, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 19:24, despair of themselves as not destined to live. And they surrender all to the world, cling to the present life as if it alone was left to them, and diverge more from the way to the life to come, no longer inquiring either whom the Lord and Master calls rich, or how that which is impossible to man becomes possible to God. But there are others who rightly and adequately comprehend this, yet they attach only slight importance to the works which tend to salvation; these people do not make the requisite preparation for attaining to the objects of their hope…

Those who are actuated by a love of the truth and love of their brethren, and neither are rudely insolent towards such rich as are called, nor, on the other hand, cringe to them for their own greedy purposes, must first by the word relieve them of their groundless despair and show by the words of the Lord that the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven is not quite cut off from them if they obey the commandments. And then admonish them that they entertain a causeless fear, and that the Lord gladly receives them, provided they are willing; and then, in addition, exhibit and teach how and by what deeds and dispositions they shall win the objects of hope, inasmuch as it is neither out of their reach, nor, on the other hand, attained without effort…

This is much like athletes. For among those, one man, because he despaired of being able to conquer and gain crowns, did not enter the contest. While another, whose mind was inspired with this hope, and yet did not submit to the appropriate labors, diet, exercises, remained uncrowned, and was foiled in his expectations.

So also let not the man who has been invested with worldly wealth proclaim himself excluded at the outset from the Savior’s lists, provided he is a believer and one who contemplates the greatness of God’s philanthropy. Nor let him, on the other hand, expect to grasp the crowns of immortality without struggle and effort, continuing untrained, and without contest. But let him go and put himself under the Word as his trainer, and Christ the President of the contest; and for his prescribed food and drink let him have the New Testament of the Lord; and for exercises, the commandments; and for elegance and ornament, the fair  dispositions, love, faith, hope, knowledge of the truth, gentleness, meekness, pity, gravity; so that, when the last trumpet is sounded, the signal shall be given for the race and departure hence, as from the stadium of life, he may with a good conscience present himself victorious before the Judge who confers the rewards, confessedly worthy of the Fatherland on high, to which he returns with crowns and the acclamations of angels.

St. Clement of Alexandria (150-215) was an Egyptian theologian and teacher, who led the famed Catechetical School of Alexandria for over twenty years. He wrote several important apologetic works, seeking to reconcile Christian revelation and pagan philosophy, and was the teacher of the great Biblical commentator and theologian Origen. His feast is on December 5 in several Eastern and Anglican churches. The text is adapted for modern readers.

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