Unquestionable Character: A 21-day Study in Stewardship.

A Mature Steward Pursues Mercy and Truth

James uses verbs to define acceptable religion: God wants us to 'look after orphans and widows' and keep ourselves from being 'polluted by the world' (Jas 1:27). Jeremiah pinpoints two areas in which God's people are failing (see Jer 22:15-17) - not surprisingly, these very two. God isn't complaining about a lack of costly sacrifices in Jeremiah 7:1-29. No, the deficits are in the areas of attitude and behavior. The Judahites are failing the tests of mercy and purity.
Church father Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-211/216) addresses both of these issues. Idolatry in his culture no longer involved the worship of hand-hewn 'gods.' It was, as it is for many of us today, a matter of hearth allegiance. Clement rejects the notion that wealth is inherently evil: how can we provide for the destitute if we have nothing ourselves? In fact, the loss of earthly treasure may not in and of itself eradicate the heart's lust for more of the same.

Riches then, which benefit also our neighbors, are not to be thrown away. For they are possessions, inasmuch as they are possessed, and goods, inasmuch as they are useful and provided by God for the use of men; and they! are put under our power, as material and instruments which are for good use to those who know the instrument!

For he who holds possessions, and gold, and silver, and houses, as the gifts of God; and ministers from them to the God who gives them for the salvation of men; and knows that he possesses them more for the sake of the brethren than his own; and is superior to the possession of them, not the slave of the things he possesses; and does not carry them about in his soul, nor bind and circumscribe his life within them, but is ever laboring at some good and divine work, even should he be necessarily some time or other deprived of them, is able with cheerful mind to bear their removal equally with their abundance. This is he who is blessed by the Lord, and called poor in spirit, a [proper] heir of the kingdom of heaven!

But he who carries his riches in his soul, and instead of God's spirit bears in his heart gold or land, and is always acquiring possessions without end, and is perpetually on the outlook for more, bending downwards and fettered in the toils of the world, being earth and destined to depart to earth - whence can he be able to desire and to mind the kingdom of heaven - a man who carries not a heart, but land or metal, who must perforce be found in the midst of the objects he has chosen? For where the mind of man is, there is also his treasure. The Lord acknowledges a twofold treasure - the good: 'For the good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, brings forth good'; and the evil: for 'the evil man, out of the evil treasure, brings forth evil: for out of abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.'