Being Taken From, Lending and Giving

Epiphany 7 Thursday

Matthew 5:42

“Give to him who asks you and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”

Christ points to three things which Christians are to tolerate in temporal possessions: They are to let others take from them; they should gladly lend; and they should gladly give. In these matters, the scribes also do not go beyond what the law of the world and the empire demand which does not tell you to give to other or to let others take from you, but teaches you to deal with your possessions in such a way that you trade them on an equal basis by buying, selling, and exchanging. Now, Christ does not preach about these at all, but lets it go on as reason teaches you how to divide and trade possessions. But Christ does show what a Christian should have above and beyond all this, namely, the three things: Letting others take from him, by force or by an appearance of right; gladly giving; and gladly lending. Therefore, we once again must distinguish what is the law in the world and what is Christ’s teaching. According to the law of the world, you may use your possessions, trade with them, buy and sell them. You read about the holy patriarchs that they dealt with money and possessions like other people. And this is how it must be if you want to live among other people and feed your wife and child. For all this is about giving the belly its due and is just as necessary as eating and drinking. But beyond this, Christ teaches you to be prepared to let your possessions be taken from you gladly, to do good or to give, and also to lend, not only with possessions, but also with your body and life, as has been said before. You should be prepared to suffer these things especially for the sake of the Lord Christ if you are approached for the sake of the gospel, so that you give up not only the shirt, but also the coat; not only property and honor, but also body and life…But here you must see that you do not give space to knaves and rogues who want to take advantage of this teaching…Therefore, although a Christian should gladly lend and give to him who asks, he does not have a duty to give to him whom he knows to be a knave. For Christ does not command me to give my possessions to any rogue and withhold it from my family and from others who need it where I have a duty to help them, so that I suffer want and burden others. For Christ does not say that one should give and lend to everyone, but only to him who asks as someone who needs it, not to him who wants to take it from us maliciously as someone who already has enough or who want to burden others without working. This is why one should see what kind of people live in the city to know who are poor and indigent and who are not. One should not admit every knave or indigent who has no need and who could well support himself…Thus, here your worldly person is required. You should be wise here while you live among the people so you know the poor and see what people come to you and to whom you should give and to whom you should not. And when you see that a person genuinely asks you, open your hand and lend or loan to him if he can give it back to you. But if he cannot, you are to give it to him as a gift and cross it out in the ledger. E.g., there might be good people who would gladly work to support themselves with wife and children, but who do not succeed, so that they acquire debts and get into trouble. For these people, every city should have its common chest and alms and servants of the church who check who these are and how they live, lest lazy vagrants are given an opportunity to burden the people.
St. Louis ed., 7:474-478.
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