There is nothing new under the sun

From John Chrysostom’s 21st homily on 1 Corinthians:

It is foolishness and a public madness to fill the cupboards with clothing and allow men who are created in God’s image and likeness to stand naked and trembling with cold, so that they can hardly hold themselves upright.

Yes, you say, he is cheating and he is only pretending to be weak and trembling. What! Do you not fear that lightning from Heaven will fall on you for this word? Indeed, forgive me, but I almost burst from anger.

Only see, you are large and fat, you hold drinking parties until late at night, and sleep in a warm, soft bed. And do you not think of how you must give an account of your misuse of the gifts of God?

… On the other hand, you question very closely the poor and the miserable, who are scarcely better off in this respect than the dead: and you do not fear the dreadful and the terrible judgment seat of Christ. If the beggar lies, he lies from necessity, because your hardheartedness and merciless inhumanity force him to such cheating. … If we would give our alms gladly and willingly, the poor would never have fallen to such depths.

… But for him, who prays and calls on God, and beseeches you humbly and modestly, to him you will vouchsafe neither an answer or a glance, but at the most, you will give him a reproach and say: “Why does such a one have to live and breathe and see the light of the sun?” And while God says to you “Give alms and I will give thee the Kingdom of Heaven,” you hear it not.

… Indeed, for your charioteers in the circus, you are ready to sacrifice your own children, and for your actors you would deliver up your own soul, but for the hungering Christ, the smallest piece of money is too large for you to give. And if you do sacrifice a penny for once, it is as if you were giving away your whole property. Truly, I am ashamed when I see rich people riding about on horses decorated with gold and with servants clad in gold coming along behind them. They have silver beds and multitudes of other luxuries. But, if they have to give something to a poor man, suddenly they themselves are the poorest of the poor!

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  • Jeff Weskamp

    Nothing new, indeed.  I love the line about actors.  People today *would* give their very souls to their favorite actors….

  • Jeff Weskamp

    Oh, and…. FIRST!!!  Hee, hee, hee….

    And one more thing: change the word “charioteers” to “professional athletes” in the first sentence of the sixth paragraph, and it’s just as apt today as it was back then.

  • JamesP

    Listen to your rich man calling your poor man “wretch,” “beggar,”
    “rabble,” because he dares open his mouth in “our” presence, because in
    his rags he reproaches “our” morality and conduct … as if the rich
    alone had a right to speak, as if the understanding of truth were a
    function of wealth, not of thought.

    […]

    “But,” you say, “it does not mean a camel, which cannot possibly
    pass through a needle’s eye, but a “camelus,” which is a kind of ship’s
    hawser.”  What intolerable subtlety when human greed grasps at the name
    of ropes to keep its earthly wealth! […] It is a rotten argument that
    will do the rich no good.  As if it were easier to get a huge rope
    through the needle’s eye than that well-known animal the camel! If you
    want an excuse to live estranged from heaven’s throne with an easy mind,
    ships are no good to you, with their huge great fittings. 

    You had better try the weaving trade, and serve for some kind of
    thread called “camelus.”  Such idiocy may amuse men, but it will carry
    little weight with God.  But you quote “What is impossible for men is
    possible for God.” Of course it is “possible” for Him to let the rich
    into heaven, “possible” to let them bring all their estates and their
    mobile property and their wealth into heaven too, and their camels into
    the bargain.  If it were just a matter of “possibility” no-one would be
    shot out of heaven, for everything is possible with God.

    – That’s the 5th century “Sicilian Briton.”

  • Anonymous

    What’s Koine Greek for ‘granite countertops’?

  • Joshua

    What’s Koine Greek for ‘granite countertops’?

    If they had a word for granite, I haven’t been able to find it. No idea about counter-top, which IIRC is not mentioned much in the New Testament.

  • Anonymous

     This is a number from The Gold Diggers of 1933 of all things that can also be filed under the more things change the more things stay the same, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37-ocetYDdU

  • http://twitter.com/2house2fly Andrew PG

    Good lord, that’s eerie.  I misread “21st” at the top and thought for some reason it said “21st Century” and didn’t miss a beat while reading until it got to “charioteers in the circus”.

  • Anonymous

     And wow, even in the fifth century they had a version of the “Eye of Needle refers to a narrow gate in Jerusalem” urban legend.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    And wow, even in the fifth century they had a version of the “Eye of Needle refers to a narrow gate in Jerusalem” urban legend.

    The fifth century version isn’t as bad as the modern one; the idea is that “camel” meant something like “rope” — so passing it through the eye of a needle was still patently impossible, but it “fixes” the fact that “camel through the eye of a needle” is a weird-ass mixed metaphor

  • http://www.facebook.com/LoneWolf343 Derek Laughlin

    It’s a weird metaphor, but hardly mixed. The Christ was rather fond of hyperbole, painting picturesque impossibilities with abandon.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    And wow, even in the fifth century they had a version of the “Eye of Needle refers to a narrow gate in Jerusalem” urban legend.

    The fifth century version isn’t as bad as the modern one; the idea is that “camel” meant something like “rope” — so passing it through the eye of a needle was still patently impossible, but it “fixes” the fact that “camel through the eye of a needle” is a weird-ass mixed metaphor

  • Josh

     Wow, the saint predicted that Rush would say “he is only pretending to be weak and trembling.”

  • Josh

     Wow, the saint predicted that Rush would say “he is only pretending to be weak and trembling.”

  • Lori

    Well, that guy didn’t mince words. 

    There’s something both comforting and horrifying about the fact that this same homily could be given today with only minor changes of vocabulary. One the one hand, for all that people constantly talk about how terrible things are getting we aren’t actually worse than our predecessors. On the other hand, for all that people talk about progress we’re not all that much better than our predecessors. 

  • Keromaru

    “Well, that guy didn’t mince words.”

    His name actually means “St. John the Goldenmouthed.”  He was very well-known for his sermons.

    One aspect of his life that I always found interesting: according to Wikipedia, he was made Archbishop of Constantinople against his will, he “refused to host lavish social gatherings,” and stood up to other Patriarchs and the Emperor’s wife.

    So I think he definitely meant it.

  • Lori

    Well, that guy didn’t mince words. 

    There’s something both comforting and horrifying about the fact that this same homily could be given today with only minor changes of vocabulary. One the one hand, for all that people constantly talk about how terrible things are getting we aren’t actually worse than our predecessors. On the other hand, for all that people talk about progress we’re not all that much better than our predecessors. 

  • Anonymous

    Wow. If not for “charioteers”, I’d have wondered if this hadn’t been written just today.

  • chris the cynic

    The fifth century version isn’t as bad as the modern one; the idea is that “camel” meant something like “rope” — so passing it through the eye of a needle was still patently impossible, but it “fixes” the fact that “camel through the eye of a needle” is a weird-ass mixed metaphor

    Weird?  Mixed metaphor?  You mean you don’t thread your needles by having livestock carry the thread through the needle’s eye for you?

    Well how the hell do you do it then?

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    Oh, Mr. Clark, you would post this the week I’m trying to clear out my closet of the stuff I’m not wearing, and having a hard time parting with some of it…. that I’m not wearing.

    Oh wait! Chrysostom said “cupboards full of clothes. Not closets. My cupboards are full of dishes! Chrysostom said nothing about dishes.

    Whew! Exegetical agility saves the day again.

    (Also, I gave $20 to a homeless person once, so I think I’ve got the works thing covered.)

  • Anonymous

    Heh. Tell me about it. Nobody’s bought anything from my virtual yard sale yet, which I’m having because I don’t read my books or watch my DVDs, and yet I live in fear of the moment someone does buy something.

  • http://scyllacat.livejournal.com Scylla Kat

    Today is my birthday, and I want to give stuff away!

  • Lori

    Happy Birthday!

  • Tehanu

    That makes you a hobbit!  Happy birthday, by the way.

  • http://scyllacat.livejournal.com Scylla Kat

    Well, that explains the hairy toes, then!

  • Anonymous

    I remember an old MAD Magazine joke where they solved the camel-through-the-needle question: you just load the camel onto a helicopter, and fly it on through.  “So show me where it says what size needle…”

  • Termudgeon

    I guess this is more of the stopped clock theory. It’s hard for me to like anything Chrysostom produced, but this is close.