A brother went to consult a certain elder: “Is it all right, Abba, for me to keep two gold coins which are left over from my handicraft sales, so as to have them for my old age, or if I happen to get ill?”
“No, it is not at all correct for you to keep them,” the elder answered, “for in this way you learn to set your hopes on them and cease to have the protection of God.”
Did you have the same kneejerk reaction of “Whoa, Nellie” as I when you read this Saying? Because it sure slammed me upside the head.
This is so different from what we are taught, isn’t it? We certainly are not taught to 100% depend on God for everything. We are taught to be prudent, to have three months worth of salary saved up at all times, buy life insurance, buy in bulk so we are never without, and all sorts of other things.
Back in the days of Desert Christianity, prudence is not a value. Yes, they wove mats and baskets and sold them for a bit of food, but they were to have nothing leftover, nothing saved up but were to 100% depend upon God to provide for them.
Such advice is nigh impossible to follow today, but surely we can all simplify our lives if we really looked at ourselves. Do we have stuff in rented storage units we haven’t entered in a year? Do we have clothes in our closets we haven’t worn in quite a while? Do we have a garage so stuffed with stuff we can’t park the car in it? For that matter, how expensive was that car?
The thing is, the Abba is telling the monk that no, he can’t keep the money. But what is the monk supposed to do with it? My guess is that the Abba also told the monk to give those coins to the poor. Had the expression been around back in the Abba’s day, I am pretty sure he might have said, “Live simply so that others might simply live.”