Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by Gaudentius of Brescia

You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.

The Lord Jesus, true teacher of the precepts that lead to salvation, wished to urge upon the apostles in his own time and all believers today the Christian duty of almsgiving. He therefore related the parable of the steward to make us realize that nothing in this world really belongs to us.

We have been entrusted with the administration of our Lord’s property to use what we need with thanksgiving, and to distribute the rest among our fellow servants according to the needs of each one.

We must not squander the wealth entrusted to us, nor use it on superfluities, for when the Lord comes we shall be required to account for our expenditure.

Finally, at the end of the parable, the Lord adds: “Use worldly wealth to make friends with the poor, so that when it fails you,” when you have spent all you possessed on the needs of the poor and have nothing left, “they may welcome you into eternal dwellings.”

In other words, these same poor people will befriend you by assuring your salvation, for Christ, the giver of eternal rewards, will declare that he himself received the acts of kindness done to them.

Not in their own name, then, will these poor folk welcome us, but in the name of him who is refreshed in their persons by the fruit of our faith and obedience.

“If you cannot be trusted with another’s property, who will give you your own?”

Those who exercised this ministry of love will be received into the eternal dwellings of the kingdom of heaven, for the King will say: “Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world; for I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink.”

But “if you have been untrustworthy in the administration of worldly wealth, who is going to trust you with true riches?” For if someone cannot be relied on to administer worldly possessions that provide the means for all sorts of wrong doing, would anyone dream of trusting that person with the true heavenly riches rightly and deservedly enjoyed by those who have been faithful in giving to the poor?

The Lord’s query above is immediately followed by another: “If you cannot be trusted with another’s property, who will give you your own?”

Nothing in this world really belongs to us. We who hope for a future reward are told to live in this world as strangers and pilgrims, so as to be able to say to the Lord without fear of contradiction: “I am a stranger and a pilgrim like all my ancestors.”

What believers can regard as their own is that eternal and heavenly possession where our heart is and our treasure, and where intense longing makes us dwell already through faith, for as Saint Paul teaches, “Our homeland is in heaven.”

(Sermon 18: PL 20, 973-975)

Gaudentius of Brescia(+410) became bishop in succession to Saint Philaster sometime before 397, and governed his church for fourteen years. He was a friend of Saint Ambrose and of Saint John Chrysostom. In 404-405 he pleaded Chrysostom’s cause at Constantinople as the envoy of Pope Innocent I. The sermons of Gaudentius were known and used by Saint Leo the Great. They are important for their teaching on the eucharist.


**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson