St John Chrysostom: Let us blame ourselves, not social or economic groups

THEN came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Mt 18:21-22

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Today, the shadow of a ‘class-warfare’ blame game seems to be spreading once again.

St John Chrysostom feinted with an apparent class-warfare critique, in his commentary on Matthew 18:21-35.

WHERE then would ye that I should begin? With the slaves, or with the free? with them that serve in the army, or with private persons? with the rulers, or with the subjects? with the women, or with the men? with the aged men, or with the young? with what age? with what race? with what rank? with what pursuit?

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An icon of St John Chrysostom (c. 349–407)

St John Chrysostom (c. 349–407)

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St John played the game for a little, critiquing the wickedness of soldiers, of ‘workmen and artisans’, and of wealthy landowners and merchants.

Then he turned the tables on his audience.

BUT these things I say, not blaming crafts, nor husbandry, nor military service, but ourselves.

Since Cornelius also was a centurion, and Paul a worker in leather, and after his preaching practised his craft, and David was a king, and Job enjoyed the possession of land and of large revenues, and there was no hindrance hereby to any of these in the way of virtue.

Bearing in mind all these things, and considering the ten thousand talents, let us at least hence hasten to remit to our neighbors their few and trifling debts.

For we too have an account to give of the commandments wherewith we have been trusted, and we are not able to pay all, no not whatever we may do.

Therefore God hath given us a way to repayment both ready and easy, and which is able to cancel all these things, I mean, not to be revengeful.

Homily LXI On the Gospel of St Matthew (on Mt 18:21-35). Translation from CCEL.

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