ANTIOCH, SYRIA — After expounding 1 Timothy 2:11-15, Pastor John Chrysostom concluded today’s sermon with an exhortation to parents. During these words the Golden Church echoed with the sound of fathers tearing their clothes, mothers wailing loudly, and dull thuds as people smacked themselves in the forehead.
“We have a great trust given to us in children. Let us take care of them accordingly, and let us do all things that the evil one may not bereave us of them. But now everything is backwards with us! For we manage all things so that our estate will be good, and so that we may entrust it to a faithful man. And we seek after a donkey-driver, and a mule-tender, and an administrator, and a smart accountant. But when it comes to that which is more precious to us than everything else — that we should entrust our son to some person who is able to keep watch on his temperance — we take no consideration. And yet this of all things is the more precious possession, and those other things are for this one. So we take care of our possessions for the sake of our children, but we no longer take care of them. Do you see the absurdity?
“Train the soul of your child, and those possessions will be present besides. For when the soul is not good, he will have no advantage from your riches; but when the soul is set straight, he will have no harm from poverty. Do you want to leave him riches? Teach him to be good. For in this way he will also be able to gather riches; though even if he does not acquire them, he will be no worse off than those who have acquired. But if he should be evil, then even though you leave him myriads of things, you have not left him the guard; rather, you have made him worse than those who go into abject poverty. For when it comes to those among the children who have not been trained well, poverty is better for them than wealth. For poverty constrains them in virtue even though they are unwilling. But wealth does not permit those who are willing to exercise self-control; rather, it leads them away, and causes them catastrophe, and throws them into myriad dangers.”
Chrysostom preached this sermon toward the end of the fourth century AD, yet his words are as applicable now as ever. Consider:
- What are the true riches that Christian parents should entrust to their children?
- Why are earthly riches harmful when not accompanied by virtue?
- Chrysostom speaks of a teacher or educator as one who should “keep watch over [the child’s] temperance,” likely referring to the cardinal virtue called Temperance. Why should parents seek teachers of virtue for their children, and not merely teachers of information or teachers of skills?
Quote from John Chrysostom, Homily IX on 1 Timothy. Translated by Andrew Richard, 2017.