“Avoid entertaining men of the world, especially those whose honours make them swell with pride. You are the priest of Christ—one poor and crucified who lived on the bread of strangers. It is a disgrace to you if the consul’s lictors or soldiers keep watch before your door, and if the Judge of the province has a better dinner with you than in his own palace. If you plead as an excuse your wish to intercede for the unhappy and the oppressed, I reply that a worldly judge will defer more to a clergyman who is self-denying than to one who is rich; he will pay more regard to your holiness than to your wealth. Or if he is a man who will not hear the clergy on behalf of the distressed except over the bowl, I will readily forego his aid and will appeal to Christ who can help more effectively and speedily than any judge. Truly “it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.”(11)
This passage is challenging on so many levels, I’m not sure where to begin. Certainly we live in a different time and culture than Jerome. However, charity banquets and fundraisers remain extremely popular and seem to be analogous to the issue addressed here by Jerome.
I have a hard time comprehending this common occurrence. A charity working to meet a need in the community (providing job training for single mothers, for example, world hunger would work just as well) invites a powerful (aka wealthy) member of the community to a banquet, where they can be seen and admired by other powerful (aka wealthy) members of the community. They will be entertained, fed a better meal than any of those single mothers have ever seen, and praised for being on the ‘front lines’ of the battle.
On the various occasions I have been present for this type of event, I can’t help but wonder, “If Jesus visited Grand Rapids tonight, would he be feeding and healing the helpless, or would he be up here in this hotel, praising the elite for how compassionate they are?”