Tuesday, September 8, 2009

John Chrysostom: Kingship Unmerited - Loss Thereof Deserved

Yesterday you heard how God made the human being king and governor of the wild animals, and how He immediately stripped them of kingship - or, rather, not God but they stripped themselves of this dignity through disobedience. Attaining kingship, you see, was the result of God's lovingkindness alone; in fact, it was not as a reward for good behavior that He gave it to them, adorning them with the dignity before they were made. In other words, to prevent your claiming that the human beings were made later, then performed many good deeds and thus won God over to giving them government of the animals, on the point of forming them God speaks about their government in these terms, Let us make a human being in out image and likeness, and let them govern the animals of the earth. The dignity is conferred before life, the crown before creation; even before being made they are conducted to the royal throne. You see, while human beings confer honor on their subjects in extreme old age after many hardships and countless dangers, some in peace and some in war, God is not like that: as soon as they were made, He installed them in this position of honor so as to bring out that what was conferred was not reward for good behavior, but on God's part was gratuitous, not due to them. While their receiving government was the result of God's lovingkindness alone, then, their forfeiting government was the result of their indifference: just as kings discharge from government those who disobey their commands, so too did God in the case of human beings, discharging them from government at that time.

- John Chrysostom (around A.D. 347 to around A.D. 407), Sermon 4 on Genesis, in St. John Chrysostom, Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis, pp. 61-62 (2004), Robert C. Hill translator.