Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Quote from Tertullian [A 2nd to 3rd Century Christian] on Impatience and Covetousness

Now, however, while we run through the causes of impatience, all the other precepts also will answer in their own places. If our spirit is aroused by the loss of property, it is commonished [common place] by the Lord’s Scriptures, in almost every place, to a contemning of the world; nor is there any more powerful exhortation to contempt of money submitted (to us), than (the fact) the Lord Himself is found amid no riches. He always justifies the poor, fore-condemns the rich. So He fore-ministered to patience “loss,” and to opulence “contempt” (as portion); demonstrating, by means of (His own) repudiation of riches, that hurts done to them also are not to be much regarded. Of that, therefore, which we have not the smallest need to seek after, because the Lord did not seek after it either, we ought to endure without heart-sickness the cutting down or taking away. 

“Covetousness,” the Spirit of the Lord has through the apostle pronounced “a root of all evils.” Let us not interpret that covetousness as consisting merely in the concupiscence [lust] of what is another’s: for even what seems ours is another’s; for nothing is ours, since all things are God’s, whose are we also ourselves. And so, if, when suffering from a loss, we feel impatiently, grieving for what is lost from what is not our own, we shall be detected as bordering on covetousness: we seek what is another’s when we ill brook [endure]  losing what is another’s. He who is greatly stirred with impatience of a loss, does, by giving things earthly the precedence over things heavenly, sin directly against God; for the Spirit, which he has received from the Lord, he greatly shocks for the sake of a worldly matter. Willingly, therefore, let us lose things earthly, let us keep things heavenly. Perish the whole world, so I may make patience my gain! 

In truth, I know not whether he who has not made up his mind to endure with constancy the loss of somewhat of his, either by theft, or else by force, or else even by carelessness, would himself readily or heartily lay hand on his own property in the cause of almsgiving: for who that endures not at all to be cut by another, himself draws the sword on his own body? Patience in losses is an exercise in bestowing and communicating. [He] Who fears not to lose, finds it not irksome to give. Else how will one, when he has two coats, give the one of them to the naked, unless he be a man likewise to offer to one who takes away his coat his cloak as well? How shall we fashion to us friends from mammon, if we love it so much as not to put up with its loss? We shall perish together with the lost mammon. Why do we find here, where it is our business to lose

To exhibit impatience at all losses is the Gentiles’ business, who give money the precedence perhaps over their soul; for so they do, when, in their cupidities [greed, excessive desire] of lucre, they encounter the gainful perils of commerce on the sea; when, for money’s sake, even in the forum, there is nothing which damnation (itself) would fear which they hesitate to essay (attempt, endeavor]; when they hire themselves for sport and the camp; when, after the manner of wild beasts, they play the bandit along the highway. But us, according to the diversity by which we are distinguished from them, it becomes to lay down not our soul for money, but money for our soul, whether spontaneously in bestowing or patiently in losing.

[Tertullian, On Patience; Chapter 7]

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“Reason dictates that persons who are truly noble and who love wisdom will honor and love only what is true. They will refuse to follow traditional viewpoints if those viewpoints are worthless...Instead, a person who genuinely loves truth must choose to do and speak what is true, even if he is threatened with death...I have not come to flatter you by this written petition, nor to impress you by my words. I have come to simply beg that you do not pass judgment until you have made an accurate and thorough investigation. Your investigation must be free of prejudice, hearsay, and any desire to please the superstitious crowds. As for us, we are convinced that you can inflict no lasting evil on us. We can only do it to ourselves by proving to be wicked people. You can kill us—but you cannot harm us.” From Justin Martyr's first apology 150 A.D. Martyred A.D. 160