Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book XIII/Chapter 26
Chapter XXVI.—In the Confessing of Benefits, Computation is Made Not as to The “Gift,” But as to the “Fruit,”—That Is, the Good and Right Will of the Giver.
39. But they who are delighted with them are fed by those fruits; nor are they delighted with them “whose god is their belly.” For neither in those that yield them are the things given the fruit, but in what spirit they give them. Therefore he who serves God and not his own belly, I plainly see why he may rejoice; I see it, and I rejoice with him exceedingly. For he hath received from the Philippians those things which they had sent from Epaphroditus; but yet I see why he rejoiced. For whereat he rejoices, upon that he feeds; for speaking in truth, “I rejoiced,” saith he, “in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again, wherein ye were also careful,” but it had become wearisome unto you. These Philippians, then, by protracted wearisomeness, had become enfeebled, and as it were dried up, as to bringing forth this fruit of a good work; and he rejoiceth for them, because they flourished again, not for himself, because they ministered to his wants. Therefore, adds he, “not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
40. Whereat, then, dost thou rejoice in all things, O great Paul? Whereat dost thou rejoice? Whereon dost thou feed, O man, renewed in the knowledge of God, after the image of Him that created thee, thou living soul of so great continency, and thou tongue like flying fowls, speaking mysteries,—for to such creatures is this food due,—what is that which feeds thee? Joy. Let us hear what follows. “Notwithstanding,” saith he, “ye have well done that ye did communicate with My affliction.” Hereat doth he rejoice, hereon doth he feed; because they have well done, not because his strait was relieved, who saith unto thee, “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress;” because he knew both “to abound and to suffer need,” in Thee Who strengthenest him. For, saith he, “ye Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.” Unto these good works he now rejoiceth that they have returned; and is made glad that they flourished again, as when a fruitful field recovers its greenness.
41. Was it on account of his own necessities that he said, “Ye have sent unto my necessity? Rejoiceth he for that? Verily not for that. But whence know we this? Because he himself continues, “Not because I desire a gift, but I desire fruit.” From Thee, O my God, have I learned to distinguish between a “gift” and “fruit.” A gift is the thing itself which he gives who bestows these necessaries, as money, food, drink, clothing, shelter, aid; but the fruit is the good and right will of the giver. For the good Master saith not only, “He that receiveth a prophet,” but addeth, “in the name of a prophet.” Nor saith He only, “He that receiveth a righteous man,” but addeth, “in the name of a righteous man.” So, verily, the former shall receive the reward of a prophet, the latter that of a righteous man. Nor saith He only, “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water,” but addeth, “in the name of a disciple” and so concludeth, “Verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” The gift is to receive a prophet, to receive a righteous man, to hand a cup of cold water to a disciple; but the fruit is to do this in the name of a prophet, in the name of a righteous man, in the name of a disciple. With fruit was Elijah fed by the widow, who knew that she fed a man of God, and on this account fed him; but by the raven was he fed with a gift. Nor was the inner man of Elijah fed, but the outer only, which might also from want of such food have perished.
- Phil. iii. 19.
- Rom. xvi. 18.
- Phil. iv. 18.
- Ibid. ver. 10.
- Ibid. vers. 11–13.
- Phil. iv. 14.
- Compare p. 160, note 2, above.
- Ps. iv. 1.
- Compare his De Bono Conjug. ch. xxi., where he points out that while any may suffer need and abound, to know how to suffer belongs only to great souls, and to know how to abound to those whom abundance does not corrupt.
- Phil. iv. 15, 16.
- Ibid. ver. 17.
- Matt. x. 41, 42.
- 1 Kings xvii. See p. 133, note 2, above.