On the Riches We Can Keep

Elder Barsanuphius of Optina 1845-1913

Everyone knows the story about the young man in the Gospels. He approaches Christ and asks how he can inherit eternal life. The Lord replies, do thus and thus. “All this I have fulfilled,” says the young man. “Then if you wish to be perfect,” says Christ, “sell your possessions and give everything to the poor.” This commandment of Christ has profound meaning. The possessions which it necessary for us to give away are those things which we have received from the world. We must take them out of our heart and give them away, so that there will be nothing worldly there, so that Christ alone will be there. I earnestly entreat you — preserve your heart; let it belong entirely to the Lord. Don’t let anyone within it besides your spiritual father, and perhaps also a friend in the Lord.

There are possessions which one need not give away. The well-known and comprehensively educated physician, Professor Prigorov, was possessed of great erudition, and made use of it to the glory of God. When he was asked how he could combine the fulfillment of all the rites and dictates of the Orthodox Church with his enormous practice, he replied, “The Lord helps me, since I use my knowledge to the glory of my Lord Jesus Christ.” Such riches, that is, such knowledge, one need not renounce. (Elder Barsanuphius of Optina, p. 648)

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