A predilection for riches
strongly interferes with a person’s ability to become virtuous. In His
teachings and parables, the Lord Jesus Christ often warned people about having
an excessive attachment to worldly goods. In His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord
directly forbids a Christian to become rich, saying:
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon
earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and
steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor
rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where
your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore
thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be
evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is
in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
No man can serve two masters: for either he will
hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise
the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon [i.e.,riches]"(Mat. -24).
This admonition, of course, does not apply to the effort that is necessary
for feeding oneself and one’s family. It is forbidden here to indulge in excessive
and oppressive troubles for the sake of becoming rich. The Holy Scriptures
speak thus about the necessity of work: "If any would not work, neither
should he eat!" (2 Thes. 3:10).
In order to avert people from an excessive attachment to material goods, the
Lord reminds us that they are not permanent but mortal: they can be
ruined by rust, moths and all sorts of unfortunate events; they can be taken by
malicious persons and stolen by thieves; finally, a person has to leave them
behind on earth when he dies. For this reason, instead of using all of one’s
strength to gather fleeting blessings, a person would be better off
attending to storing up internal riches, which are truly valuable and which
will be his eternal inheritance.
The internal wealth of a person includes his so-called "talents"—
the mental and spiritual abilities given to him by the Creator for
development and perfecting. First and foremost, the spiritual wealth of a
person must include the virtues, for example, faith, courage,
abstinence, patience, constancy, hope in God, compassion, magnanimity, love and
others. These spiritual riches should be acquired through a righteous life and
good deeds. The most valuable spiritual wealth is the moral purity and
holiness which are given to a virtuous person by the Holy Spirit. A person
must zealously ask God for this wealth. Upon receiving it, he must
painstakingly guard it in his heart. The Lord summons people to the acquisition
of this many-faceted internal wealth in His Sermon on the Mount.
To the same degree that spiritual riches illumine a person's soul,
oppressive cares about worldly, material goods cloud his mind, weaken
his faith and fill his soul with tormenting confusion. Speaking of this
metaphorically, the Lord compares the mind of a person with an eye, which must
serve as a conduit for spiritual light: "The light of the body is the
eye: if therefore thine eye be single [undamaged], thy whole body shall
be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of
darkness." In other words, like an injured eye which deprives a person
of the ability to see light, a soul dulled with excessively worldly cares is
not in the condition to accept spiritual light; it cannot understand the
spiritual essence of events and its purpose in life. For this reason, to be a
lover of wealth is identical to being a blind man. In the parables of the
foolish rich man, and of the rich man and Lazarus, the Lord portrays clearly
the spiritual darkness and ruin of two rich people, who in other ways,
apparently, were not bad people (Lk. 12:13-21; 16:14-31).
Is it possible to have both spiritual and material wealth? The Lord explains
that it is as impossible as serving two demanding masters at the same time: "No
man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other;
or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and
mammon!" In ancient times, Mammon was the pagan patron god of
wealth. In mentioning this idol, the Lord compares the miser to an idolator,
and thus shows how mean this passion is. The Gospel tale of the rich young man
shows how a person attached to wealth is not always capable of parting with it,
even if he sincerely desires to serve God. His attachment to his wealth
suppresses all his good intentions, and he has more trust in his own money than
in help from on high. That is why it is said: "How hard it is for them
that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! (Mark )" Here it should be
clarified that the people who sin by loving wealth are not only those who are
rich, but those who consistently dream of wealth and see their happiness in it.
In concluding this part of His sermon, the Lord explains that everything
good that is necessary for life does not come so much from our efforts as
from the mercy of God, Who, as a kind Father, perpetually cares for us.
"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought
for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your
body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than
meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not,
neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth
them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add
one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the
lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And
yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the
field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much
more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall
we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For
after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your
heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye
first the kingdom of God,
and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you"(Mat.
Truly, the gift of life and the amazing composition of our bodies, the earth
with its natural wealth of flowers, fruits and various grains, sunlight and
warmth, air and water, seasons of the year and all the external conditions
necessary for our existence — all this is given to us by our merciful Creator.
For this reason, most animals — birds, fish and other creatures — do not work
at all, unlike people, but only gather for themselves already prepared food,
because Nature provides them with dwellings and shelter also.
A person with little faith must learn to trust more in God than in
his own strength. The Lord does not call us to idleness; He desires to liberate
us from the agonizing worries and excessive efforts made for passing things, in
order to give us an opportunity to prepare for eternity. The Lord promises that
if we will first and foremost work toward the salvation of our soul, He will
provide us with every other necessity: "But seek ye first the kingdom
of God, and his
righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
This part of the Sermon on the Mount thus far calls a person to avoid greed,
to be content with necessities and, most of all, to take care for spiritual
riches and eternal life.