Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Shepherd of Hermas: First Parable

...[Y]ou who are the servants of GOD are living in a foreign country, for your city is far from this city. If, therefore, you know...your city in which you are destined to live, why do you prepare fields and expensive possessions and buildings and useless rooms here?

The one who prepares these things for this city, therefore, does not plan to return to his own city. Foolish and double-minded and miserable man, don't you realize that all these things are foreign to you, and under someone else's authority? For the lord of this city will say, "I don't want you to live in my city; instead, leave this city, because you do not conform to my laws." So you have fields and dwellings and many other possessions, what will you do with your field and your house and all the other things you have prepared for yourself when you are expelled by him? For the lord of this country has every right to say to you, "Either conform to my laws, or get out of my country."

So what are you going to do, since you are subject to the law of your own city? For the sake of your fields and the rest of your possessions, will you totally renounce your own law and live according to the law of this city? Take care: it may not be in your best interest to renounce your law, for if you should want to return to your city, you will certainly not be accepted, because you have renounced the law of your city, and will be shut out of it.

So take care, as one living in a foreign land, do not prepare for yourself one thing more than is necessary to be self-sufficient, and be prepared so that whenever the master of this city wants to expel you because of your opposition to his law, you can leave his city and come to your own city, and joyfully conform to your law, free from insult.

Take care, therefore, that you serve GOD and have HIM in your heart. Work GOD's works, remembering HIS commandments and the promises that HE made, and trust HIM to keep them, if HIS commandments are kept.

So, instead of fields buy souls that are in distress, as anyone is able, and visit widows and orphans, and do not neglect them, and spend your wealth and all your possessions, which you receive from GOD, on fields and houses of this kind. For this is why the MASTER made you rich, so that you might perform these ministries for HIM. It is much better to purchase fields and possessions and houses of this kind, which you will find in your own city when you go home to it. This lavish expenditure is beautiful and joyous: it does not bring grief or fear, but joy.

So do not practice the extravagance of the heathen, for it is unprofitable to you, the servants of GOD. But do practice your own extravagance, in which you can rejoice, and do not imitate or touch what belongs to another, nor covet it, for it is evil to covet someone else's things. But do your own task, and you will be saved. --The Shepherd of Hermas: Parable 1 (mid second century AD)

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