My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
My friends, there is nothing worse than the love of money, nothing more evil than greed for possessions. This vice has consumed many households and laid low the foundations of cities; it has caused battles and spurred one brother to wrath against another; it has turned father against child, and destroyed meekness, and causes a thousand other evils.
The Holy Apostle Saint Paul calls the love of money the root of all evil, and a form of idolatry, inasmuch as it makes man trust in his possessions instead of trusting in God’s help. Just as idolaters worship created things and not God, so do lovers of money hope in gold, and not in God.
Let us, then, brethren, strive to remove such a sickness from our souls at its very root, inasmuch as it is itself the root of every evil, in order that we may be able to avoid all the evil that grows from it even in this life, and that in the age to come we may escape punishment. Wishing to deliver us from the love of money and all the woes that spring from it, our Lord in today’s Gospel says to us:
“The light of thy body is thine eye. If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thine eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be!”
Desiring to free us from the passion of avarice, and particularly from the injustice and the passions which result from it, the Lord teaches a lesson about non-possessiveness, and with many examples He leads believers to submit and be obedient to what He says. Earlier in the Gospel our Lord had said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” He showed that the treasures which are in heaven are incorruptible and unending, while the treasures which are on earth will last only a little while, being corruptible and perishable.
After this our Lord brings forward the parable with which we start today, in saying that the light of the body is the eye. And as the eye is to the body, so the mind is to the soul. As the eye is to the body, so the mind is to the soul.
A healthy eye gives light to the body, but a sickly eye darkens it; likewise, if our mind is pure, and looks solely upon things that are true and divine, the soul, receiving illumination from it, is itself enlightened and purified.
But if the mind is turned toward evil, and is occupied by worries about earthly property or by passionate desire, and if the mind becomes attached to these things, then it is blinded and darkened; and when the mind is darkened, the soul also becomes dark, much more than even the body.
One who has lost his mind to worldly predilections and darkened it with passionate desires has also darkened and forfeited all his works in this life, and has made vain the opportunities for his salvation. For this reason Christ also says, If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! In other words, He said, if the mind which enlightens your soul and body become dark through caring about possessions, and if it becomes blinded by the desire of improper passions, how much more will the soul and body be darkened. For when the light of the soul and body, that is, the mind, goes out, what further hope of salvation is there?
Furthermore, this must be said, just as a for each of us individually, a pure mind is a light, so also should they be that hold offices of spiritual or temporal authority be a light, so as to enlighten and guide those under their care to good and saving ways, and to preserve and protect them from all harm, from all assault and malice.
But if they find joy in injustice and plunder, if they work for unjust gain, if they are lazy and careless in their duties, what will the people under them suffer? Let us simply look around ourselves today.
For the holy and divine Apostles were constituted as the eyes and light of the whole world, and the Lord, therefore, instructed them, saying, If ye, being the lights of the body, stand firm and do not waver, the whole body of the world will be enlightened; however, if ye, being the salt, are spoiled; if ye, being the light, become dark, how much greater will be that darkness which is the world.
Our Lord continues: No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
It is simple reason that no man can serve two masters who give contrary orders; rather, he acknowledges one and carries out his wishes, while he truly despises the other; loving one, he comes to hate the other.
Neither is it possible to serve God and worldly possessions, inasmuch as the love of money not only separates us from God, but at the same time enslaves us to mammon. Now mammon is every injustice. Many possessions are amassed through injustice. It is impossible to serve both God and injustice. Injustice desires to seize what belongs to others; it seeks worldly things; but God commands us to give what is ours and His to the needy; He charges us to honour, love, and practice the virtues.
Therefore, as long as we are possessed by passions and assiduously do the works of the evil enemy, it is impossible for us to be friends of God; moreover, as long as we serve unrighteous passions, avarice, and dishonour, we are enemies and foes of God.
Therefore, my friends, let us cast aside the weight of ill-gotten gain, and let us hate injustice, avarice and other passions. Let us disperse our riches as much as possible, and give them to the poor, so that our righteousness may endure unto the ages.
Our Lord continues, saying: Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment?
Insofar as possessions can serve to separate us from God, the Lord commands us not to be concerned with them, nor to exhaust ourselves with the worries of greed and desire. Yet we are not driven away from or forbidden to work; according to the holy Apostle, the idle are not to eat. What the Lord forbids is to give oneself entirely over to earthly cares, to the neglect of God. Thus, we are to work according to our ability, to look out for the salvation of our souls with all earnestness and purity, and to direct our gaze to God alone, Who gives food to the hungry and fills our life with good things.
Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?
The Lord calls to mind the little birds, to show that we are even more irrational than they, thus putting us to shame. Furthermore, that freedom from care which little birds have by nature we can acquire by choice. If (God) takes care of little birds, how much more will He provide for man, (whom He has so highly) honoured?
And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature by one cubit? And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.
Not only with the birds does the Lord put us to shame, but even with the wilting flowers. If God has adorned them, though there was no need to do so, will He not fulfill our need for clothing? Even if we take thought for many things, brethren, we cannot adorn ourselves like the flowers. Solomon was wise and lived in great splendour, yet in all his reign he could not array himself in anything like them.
And if the grass of the field, which is today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith?
Thus, every man is like the grass, and all human glory is like the flower of the grass; the grass dries up, and its flower is gone. But the Lord has commanded us rational creatures, for whom He fashioned body and soul, not to adorn ourselves in a fleshly manner, but to become even more beautiful in soul. They who adorn the flesh think the things of the flesh, but (they who adorn themselves) spiritually (think) things spiritual. All those that worry are men of little faith; if they had perfect faith in God, they would not worry so insistently. Therefore, be not solicitous, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. The Lord does not forbid us to eat and drink and dress; what He does forbid is to be worried about them.
This is forbidden, as our Lord says, “For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
The kingdom of God is the fruition of the good; this kingdom is obtained through righteousness. To him who seeks spiritual things, physical things will also be added as a reward from God.
Let us, then, my friends, bestir ourselves to be diligent and labour to fulfill the Lord’s commandments. Let us be concerned about the salvation of our souls. Let us turn away from wicked and worldly works, and let us push ourselves, even daily, to do good works, that we may receive the promised blessings; and thus fulfil the will of our Heavenly Father, and thus truly realize the petition we say so often in the words given to us by our Saviour: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.