St. Jerome, Part 2

As promised, I am going to write a conversation with Jerome’s material copied in my post here.  This will not be researched commentary, but will be a catalog of my thoughts as if I was eves dropping on his conversation with Nepotian.

“A clergyman, then, as he serves Christ’s church, must first understand what his name means; and then, when he realizes this, must endeavor to be that which he is called. For since the Greek word κλῆρος means “lot,” or “inheritance,” the clergy are so called either because they are the lot of the Lord, or else because the Lord Himself is their lot and portion. Now, he who in his own person is the Lord’s portion, or has the Lord for his portion, must so bear himself as to possess the Lord and to be possessed by Him. He who possesses the Lord, and who says with the prophet, “The Lord is my portion,” Psa. xvi. 5; lxxiii. 26. can hold to nothing beside the Lord. For if he hold to something beside the Lord, the Lord will not be his portion. Suppose, for instance, that he holds to gold or silver, or possessions or inlaid furniture; with such portions as these the Lord will not deign to be his portion. I, if I am the portion of the Lord, and the line of His heritage, Ps. xvi. 5, 6. receive no portion among the remaining tribes; but, like the Priest and the Levite, I live on the tithe, Nu. xviii. 24. and serving the altar, am supported by its offerings.1 Cor. ix. 13. Having food and raiment, I shall be content with these, 1 Tim. vi. 8. and as a disciple of the Cross shall share its poverty.”

Today, if you take a look at the job postings at the seminary, most describe the compensation package for whomever is hired.  Pastors are generally like any other business person who can be hired or fired (either by a board or a more ‘Senior’ pastor) and are regarded as responsible for their own finances.  This begins in seminary training.  Rather than affirming a gifted man or woman and committing to financing their ministry training, churches seem to think everyone should “pursue the ministry” and thereby absolve themselves of any responsibility to be involved in the process.  Then, once an individual is candidating for positions, they must seek positions that will allow them to pay off their educational debt.  If that is ever paid off, pastors are then able to use their salaries in anyway they see fit.  I do not doubt that pastors a worth their wages, I doubt that they should be seen as financially independent and unaccountable and dispensable by the church. 

“I beseech you, therefore, and again and yet again admonish you; (Virgil, Æn. iii. 436) do not look to your military experience for a standard of clerical obligation. Under Christ’s banner seek for no worldly gain, lest having more than when you first became a clergyman, you hear men say, to your shame, “Their portion shall not profit them.” Jer. xii. 13, LXX.  Welcome poor men and strangers to your homely board, that with them Christ may be your guest. A clergyman who engages in business, and who rises from poverty to wealth, and from obscurity to a high position, avoid as you would the plague.”

Of course ministry is rarely lucrative.  But suburban subdivisions are a statement of social standing by any definition. 

“For “evil communications corrupt good manners.” 1 Cor. xv. 33. You despise gold; he loves it. You spurn wealth; he eagerly pursues it. You love silence, meekness, privacy; he takes delight in talking and effrontery, in squares, and streets, and apothecaries’ shops. What unity of feeling can there be where there is so wide a divergency of manners?”

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One comment on “St. Jerome, Part 2

  1. Seth Horton says:

    I should add another quote from the same letter: “It is the glory of a bishop to make provision for the wants of the poor; but it is the shame of all priests to amass private fortunes.” (6)

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