#30 God’s First and Last Word is Always Grace

EVEN THOUGH THIS BOOK was first written primarily for Christians, in this current revision I have attempted to broaden the scope to include everyone, whether Christian (by belief or by culture) or not. But while there are a few other religions that make a similar emphasis—and I am thinking particularly of True Pure Land (Jōdo Shinshū) Buddhism in Japan—the emphasis on grace is far more prominent in Christianity than in most other religions. But in spite of being less inclusive in this chapter, I still firmly believe that this chapter about the meaning and importance of grace is something that, truly, everyone needs to know.

Before writing this final chapter, I read Philip Yancey’s outstanding book What’s So Amazing About Grace?[1] for the third time. I consider Yancey’s book one of the most significant books I have read over the last twenty years. 

In the first chapter of his book, Yancey calls grace “our last best word,” and laments the “shortage of grace within the church.”[2] I fully agree with his assessment, so I decided to write about grace for this last chapter of Thirty Things Everyone Needs to Know Now. We need to be reminded constantly that for the Christian—or for anyone for that matter—God’s first and last word is always grace.

I have been reading and thinking about God’s grace for most of my adult life. One of the first good books about grace that I read maybe almost sixty years ago was penned by R. Lofton Hudson, a Baptist pastor and counselor. His book was titled Grace Is Not a Blue-Eyed Blond.[3]

Sometime before writing his book, the author was talking with a man who attended church only occasionally. Hudson asked him “What do you think of when I say the word grace?” The man’s quick reply, “Why, Grace is a blue-eyed blond!” Well, not many who read this book will identify grace in such a manner, but many may need to have a deeper, more nearly adequate understanding of grace and the importance it has, or should have, in our lives.

Grace vs. Works

In the history of Christianity, there has often been tension between grace and “works.” In the fifth century, Augustine, often said to be “the father of Western theology,” made a strong emphasis on grace. His teaching on grace, though, was linked to predestination in opposition to Pelagius, the English monk who placed great emphasis on human free will.

Augustine’s teaching was adopted by the Roman Catholic Church and Pelagius’ ideas were rejected. This might be considered a victory for grace, but gradually grace came to be seen more and more as something that was primarily dispensed by the church. Moreover, it came to be emphasized that it was through the sacraments that God’s grace was made available to ordinary people, and that grace was efficacious whether there was concomitant faith or not.

By the beginning of the sixteenth century, the emphasis on grace was greatly overshadowed by the need to raise money for the Church. Partly to pay for the reconstruction of St. Peter’s Basilica, emphasis was placed on the “sale” of indulgences.

Long before the beginning of the new construction of St. Peter’s in 1506 until the present, the Roman Catholic Church has held to belief in indulgences. According to Pope Paul VI, “An indulgence is the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned.” In the past, giving alms was one of several ways indulgences could be obtained, so it came to pass that making a contribution to the church was seen as a way to acquire an indulgence. Thus, making a special offering became virtually the same as buying an indulgence.

The “sale” of indulgences in the Holy Roman Empire near where Martin Luther lived (in present day Germany) was especially successful through the endeavors of one Johann Tetzel, who is said to have used the slogan translated into English as,

As soon as a coin in the coffer rings
The soul from purgatory springs![4]

Sola Gratia!

Martin Luther, a relatively young priest and professor of theology at the new University of Wittenberg, was especially troubled by the way indulgences were being handled as well as by other matters in the Roman Catholic Church.[5] He felt constrained to work toward reform of what he thought were clearly erroneous theological beliefs and practices of the Church at that time. His nailing of the ninety-five theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church on October 31, 1517, was primarily an announcement of his desire to debate the matters about which he was troubled.

One of Luther’s central emphases was upon sola fide, which means “by faith alone.” That was his declaration that salvation, or justification with God, was by means of faith alone, apart from any works performed by us sinful humans. But that pivotal affirmation was accompanied by his emphasis on sola gratia, “by grace alone.” This means, of course, that salvation comes by God’s grace only, not as something merited by the sinner. Thus, this Lutheran (Protestant) doctrine rejects the idea that salvation is something that can be attained by good works or other human activities.

The centrality of grace was emphasized even more strongly by Calvin than by Luther, his older contemporary. The French reformer placed great emphasis on the sovereignty of God.[6] Consequently, salvation and everything else was due only to the grace of God. Even more than Luther, Calvin placed strong emphasis on predestination: God unilaterally, without any consideration of merit within those chosen, elects some people to eternal salvation.

Calvin believed that election by God, or predestination, is due solely to God’s sovereignty and God’s grace, which to be irresistible. That is, when God calls the elect to salvation, they cannot resist. Thus, salvation is due to God’s grace alone; human will or desire has no part to play in salvation.

The strong emphasis on grace by Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers needs to be seen against the backdrop of the unhealthy emphasis by the church at the time on securing salvation, or at least release from Purgatory, through “works,” the doing of good deeds, especially the giving of offerings to the church.

Emphasis on these two solas was made along with Luther’s emphasis on sola Scriptura, “by Scripture alone.” He believed that only the Bible, not the pronouncements of Popes or Church councils or the creeds, was normative for the Christian faith. Consequently, as was mentioned in an earlier chapter, he held verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9 in high regard: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Although the form of the word is different, the fourth sola the Reformers stressed was solo Christo, “by Christ alone.” Here the emphasis was upon salvation being through the work of Christ only, neither due to the mediation of priests or other church officers nor due to the prayers to (or through) Mary or any of the other saints.

In summarizing the basic emphases of the Reformers, sometimes a fifth sola is given. Although its Latin case ending is different from the others, it is soli Deo gloria, “to the glory to God alone.” Johann Sebastian Bach is said to have appended the initials SDG to the musical manuscripts of each of his cantatas and many of his other works. And the same was practiced by other composers and authors.

All of these solas made important theological points, but perhaps it can be said that they were also based upon, and they were certainly all related to, the central affirmation of sola gratia, “by the grace of God.”

Grace Abuse

This emphasis on grace continued in Protestant churches, especially in Lutheran churches, even when the social and political context was greatly changed. That led later on, especially in the twentieth century, to what Yancey calls “grace abuse.”

Yancey once talked with a friend who asked him, “Philip, you study the Bible. Do you think God can forgive something as awful as I am about to do?” This question was given as an example of grace abuse. Since God’s grace is so abundantly given, Yancey’s friend was wanting him to say that, of course, God could and would forgive him; isn’t that what grace is all about?

Long before, the noted German poet Heinrich Heine is reported to have said on his deathbed, “Why, of course, he [God] will forgive me; that’s his business.”[7] While Heine’s words may have been spoken somewhat in jest (some refer to his words as a deathbed joke), many people do, in fact, seem to presume upon God’s grace and assume they will be forgiven regardless of what they have done, even done intentionally in spite of knowing that such actions were contrary to God’s will.

Much before Heine, the Apostle Paul dealt with the same question in his letter to the Christians in Rome. He wrote, “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?” Evidently, grace abuse is not just a modern phenomenon. Paul answers emphatically, “By no means!” (NRSV) or “God forbid” (KJV). We should never use our belief in grace as an excuse for sinning or for presuming upon God’s forgiveness.

Grace abuse can be used by groups of people as well as by individuals. Yancey didn’t mention Heine, but he did write about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who “coined the phrase ‘cheap grace’ as a way of summarizing grace abuse. Living in Nazi Germany, he was appalled by the cowardly way in which Christians were responding to Hitler’s threat.” They acknowledged God’s grace on Sundays but then “kept quiet the rest of the week as the Nazis pursued their policies of racism, euthanasia, and finally genocide.”[8]

According to Bonhoeffer, cheap grace is “the mortal enemy of our church.” So he decries “cheap grace as justification of sin, but not justification of the contrite sinner who turns away from sin and repents.” He goes on to explain,

Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipleship of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ.[9]

Things change. In the sixteenth century, so much emphasis was placed on human works, especially the “work” of making contributions to the Church (seen in the “sale” of indulgences as explained above), that Luther and the other Reformers felt it imperative to stress the centrality of grace.

By the twentieth century, especially in Germany in the 1930s, but certainly not limited to that country or that decade, grace had come to be so abused that Bonhoeffer and others felt the dire necessity of emphasizing the importance of discipleship, of following Christ, and not glibly affirming grace alone.

Still, Grace Is God’s First and Last Word

I fully agree with Bonhoeffer’s emphasis, especially in situations where God’s grace is proclaimed profusely and the importance of following Christ is largely overlooked. But, still, grace is the first and last word. We must not allow the message of grace to nullify the importance of discipleship. But even more, we must not allow the important emphasis upon following Christ faithfully to detract from the Christian message about the significance of grace.

Although probably not original with him, several years ago I read the following words boldly proclaimed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

There is nothing we can do to make God love us more.
There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.[10]

That, truly, is the meaning of grace. And while it is necessary for us to recognize, and to beware of, grace abuse, we should always remember that God’s first and last word is always grace. The pivotal significance of grace is seen in the life and work of Jesus Christ.

In the first chapter of John we read, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14). And then, Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (vv. 16-17).

Toward the end of the first chapter of his book Grace Is Not a Blue-Eyed Blond, Hudson declares, “Primarily, grace is a face, the face of Christ and of Christian acceptance.”[11] Yes, because the Christian faith begins and ends with Jesus Christ, for the Christian—and for all the people of the world—God’s first and last word is grace. Let’s never forget that, for it is certainly one extremely important true thing that everyone needs to know now.


[1] (Zondervan, 1997). Yancey (b.1949) received the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Christian Book of the Year award for that book. He was editor-at-large for Christianity Today magazine when his book was published.

[2] P. 14. “The Last Best Word” is the title of the first chapter of Yancey’s book. By those words Yancey means that grace is the only significant word left that has not been trivialized by popular culture in the way that, for example, love has been.

[3] (Word Books, 1968). In 1957, Hudson (1910-2002) founded the Midwest Christian Counseling Center in Kansas City, following seven years as the pastor of Wornall Road Baptist Church in the same city.

[4] In 1517, the year Luther began what came to be known as the Protestant Reformation, Pope Leo X made Tetzel (1465-1519) the commissioner of indulgences for the Holy Roman Empire. It should be noted that coins then were made of silver or gold, so they were worth considerably more than the coins we use today.

[5] Luther (1483-1546) became a professor at the University of Wittenberg in 1508, just six years after it had been founded.

[6] Calvin was born in France in 1509, but he fled to Switzerland at the end of 1534 and spent the rest of his life there, mostly in French-speaking Geneva, where he died in 1564.

[7] This is the translation of Louis Untermeyer in his 1937 biography of Heine (1797-1856).

[8] What’s So Amazing about Grace? p. 184. The words “grace abuse” are first introduced on pages 179-180, and those words are used for the title of the reading for October 3 in Yancey’s Grace Notes: Daily Readings with a Fellow Pilgrim (Zondervan, 2009).

[9] Discipleship (Fortress, 2003), pp. 43-44. This seminal book by Bonhoeffer (b. 1906) was first published in German in 1937. The first English translation was published in 1949 under the title The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis in April 1945, shortly before the end of World War II.

[10] Tutu spoke these words in “The Prodigal God,” the address he gave at the “God at 2000” conference held at Oregon State University in February 2000. They are printed in Marcus Borg and Ross Mackenzie, God at 2000 (Morehouse, 2002), p. 172. I don’t know whether Tutu had read Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace? but in that book Yancey wrote, “Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more. . . . And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less” (p. 70).

[11] P. 22. Actually, the title of the first chapter of Hudson’s book is the same as the title of the book, and it is the only chapter that deals directly with the subject of grace.

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#29  We Should Always Go Easy on Judging Others—Or Ourselves

IT IS SO EASY to be critical. In listening to talk about spiritual gifts, I have sometimes remarked to June that perhaps I have the gift of criticism. But I am certainly not the only one to have such a questionable gift.

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#28  We Should Never Let the Good Become an Enemy of the Best

JUNE AND I MARRIED the month we graduated from Southwest Baptist University when it was still a small junior college. That fall we moved to Liberty, Missouri, to enroll in William Jewell College. Having very limited resources, we rented a two-room apartment with a shared bath; one room was a kitchen-dinette and the other was a bedroom-study with two desks.

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#27  The New Testament Word for Success is Faithfulness

FAILURE IS A WORD we hate to hear. From their elementary school days, for most people little seemed to be worse than getting an “F” on a test or on their report card. And in real life, failure is a fear for those who go into business for themselves as well as for those who go into non-profit service activities. Failure for either usually means loss of income as well as loss of self-esteem.

Since in the world of religion, this seems to be more of an issue for Christians than those of other faiths, this chapter is mostly about success and failure as related to U.S. Christianity.

Because of the fear of failure, through the years there has been a spate of books, many from a Christian or semi-Christian perspective, written about how to succeed. Some of the most widely read are Acres of Diamonds (1915), Think and Grow Rich (1937), The Power of Positive Thinking (1952), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), and The Success Principles (2005).[1]

Success, as we all know, is often measured either in terms of dollars, for those who live in the United States, or in terms of numbers of people. In the business world no one who has not become fairly wealthy would be considered a success. And in the Christian world, successful churches are generally considered those that have had considerable numerical growth and boast large attendance at their regular meetings—and the pastors of such churches are generally considered successful.

Most people in the U.S., for example, would consider Joel Osteen, pastor of the Lakewood Church in Houston, a huge success. The church of which he is pastor is said to be the largest congregation in the U.S., and his ministry is said to reach over seven million broadcast media viewers weekly in over 100 nations around the world. Not only is he successful, but he seeks to help others achieve success also.[2]

Although not so widely known, the World Changers Church International in the suburbs of Atlanta was once the second largest church in the U.S., and its founding pastor is also widely linked to the so-called prosperity gospel theology.[3]

Nevertheless, the New Testament word for success is faithfulness, not prosperity defined by quantities that can be measured by the number of dollars one has or the number of members affiliated with or attending a given church.

Success Should be Sought

Without question, Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, is one of the best-known and most highly respected Christian leaders in the U.S.—and, thus, generally considered successful. In the previous paragraphs we looked briefly at the two large churches in this country. When I wrote the first draft of this in 2010, Warren’s church was third on the list of largest churches in the U.S., but in 2017 it had fallen to eleventh with a weekly attendance of “only” 22,000. Warren’s Purpose Driven Life (2002) has been the bestselling non-fiction book published since 2000.[4] His The Purpose Driven Church has also been highly influential—or should we say, successful.[5]

In this latter book, Warren writes about the need to be both faithful and successful. In his chapter called “Myths About Growing Churches,” Warren identifies the seventh “myth” as “All God Expects of Us Is Faithfulness.”[6] He asserts that “God expects both faithfulness and fruitfulness.”

And he has a point. Emphasis on the importance of faithfulness should never be used as an excuse for not working as hard as possible to be successful. As Warren says, God wants churches “to be both faithful and fruitful. One without the other is only half the equation. Numerical results are no justification for being unfaithful to the message, but neither can we use faithfulness as an excuse for being ineffective!”

Warren also declares that the Bible “clearly identifies numerical growth of the church as fruit.” And while that is true, it is a lot easier for the church to be fruitful in Orange County, California, where Saddleback Church is located, than in countries like Bangladesh, Somalia, or Thailand. In those and a number of other countries around the world, less, sometimes far less, than 1% of the population are professing Christians.

Using the model of fruitfulness as being a measure of success, the church in those countries certainly seems to have been a failure at this point. But it would be highly judgmental to say that the lack of fruit is due to the lack of faithfulness or the lack of effort on the part of the small percentage of Christians in those countries. Many of the Christians in such countries may not be completely faithful to Jesus, and their efforts may not be completely exemplary either. But their “failure” is due far more to the external circumstances than to the internal deficiencies of the Christian believers in those nations.

It is particularly those who labor as Christian witnesses in difficult circumstances for which the emphasis on the New Testament word for success being faithfulness is most appropriate and most helpful.

But Not Success by Any Means

Another “myth” that Warren deals with in his book The Purpose Driven Church is “You must compromise the message and the mission of the church in order to grow.”[7] Warren rightly argues that it is false to assume that if a church is attracting people, it must be shallow and lacking in commitment. But he admits that “a few large churches have compromised their message and mission.”

In seeking to rebut the myth about all churches that draw large churches having compromised, Warren emphasizes that Jesus’ ministry “attracted enormous crowds” and that even though Jesus drew large crowds, “he never compromised the truth.” Certainly both of those statements are true. But they are a bit one-sided. True, Jesus attracted large crowds, but he seems to have also engaged in “ensmallment” campaigns. (Why do we often hear the word enlargement but never ensmallment?)

In the sixth chapter of John, the chapter that tells of Jesus feeding the five thousand (a clear example of the big crowds he attracted), Jesus ends by giving what his followers see as a difficult teaching, and at the end of that chapter we are told that “many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” (v. 66).

And how many were left when Jesus was crucified? According to Matthew’s Gospel, “all the disciples deserted him and fled” (26:56). And even after the resurrection the number of believers who met together in Jerusalem was only about 120. So the ministry of Jesus cannot be said to have been terribly successful numerically. Of course, during the time of his crucifixion, his followers were not especially faithful either.

The point is this: it is probably stretching the truth to use the ministry of Jesus as an example of how churches do not have to compromise in order to grow and to attract large crowds. There is, however, significant church growth after the coming of the Holy Spirit on the church in power, as we read in the second and fourth chapters of Acts.

There are, thankfully, very large churches which are faithful, and Saddleback Church is probably one of the best examples. I have high respect for Rick Warren and his ministry, even though there are aspects of it I do not agree with. His P.E.A.C.E. plan is highly commendable: The acronym stands for Promote reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation.

But, unfortunately, there are other megachurches that have grown largely, or at least in part, through their emphasis on the so-called prosperity gospel such as mentioned in the introductory part of this chapter.

Faithfulness in Spite of Failure

Francis Xavier was, to most knowledgeable people, a highly successful missionary. As one who spent many years as a missionary in Japan, I highly admired, and was somewhat envious of, Xavier’s extremely successful missionary work in Japan.

Xavier was one of the very first Jesuits, and he was the first to become a missionary to non-European countries. He set sail for Asia in 1541, and until his death in 1552 he had varying degrees of success in India, the East Indies (now Indonesia), and then Japan.

From my experience as a missionary in Japan, serving for many years with not a lot of outward success, it seems to me that Xavier was highly successful. So it was a bit disconcerting when I read the chapter about the famous Jesuit missionary in Saints and Sanctity, a stimulating book by Jesuit scholar Walter J. Burghardt.

The subtitle of the chapter on Xavier is “Sanctity and Frustration, and in that chapter Burghardt says that in spite of the fact that we usually see him as quite successful, that “is not the way Xavier saw himself. If ever a man felt himself a failure, if ever a human being felt the exquisite agony of frustration, that man was Francis Xavier.” [8]

Burghardt goes on to say that even if we, like Xavier, try to do God’s will with every ounce of our being, that is no guarantee that our plans will prosper. But since to the very end Xavier was aware that he was doing God’s work, Burghardt declares, “In his every failure, to the very last failure off the coast of China, he was a resounding success.”[9]

Most of us will not have the opportunities, the challenges, or the frustrations of a man like Francis Xavier. But whether great or small, most of us suffer a sense of failure in many arenas of life. Regardless of how others might see us and regardless of how we ourselves or others might evaluate the present at some future point, from time to time we feel like a failure.

Many other missionaries faced the same problem as Xavier—and perhaps even more so. I am writing this section on November 11, which is the very day British Baptist missionary William Carey arrived in India in 1793. It was seven years before Carey had the joy of baptizing the first Indian convert.

In 1812 Adoniram and Ann (Hasseltine) Judson arrived in India and the following year they began missionary work in Burma (Myanmar). They labored for six years in that country before they had the joy of baptizing the first Burmese convert.

Carey and the Judsons must have often felt as if they were failures, working and witnessing for so many years before there was even one convert. There is certainly no way they could have been called fruitful during those lean years. But they were faithful, and their faithfulness was success that led to fruitfulness later. More than two hundred years later the influence of Carey and the Judsons is still seen in those southern Asian countries in which they served.

Enduring to the End

So what should we do when we have feelings of failure? The answer is simple: keep being faithful to the task God has called us. If the New Testament word for success is faithfulness, when we are doing what we are convinced God wants us to do, then we should “keep on keeping on,” as the old saying goes, regardless of whether or not we are aware of any success as it is generally understood.

It is possible to say that the New Testament word for success is faithfulness because the word success or succeed rarely appear in the New Testament—or not at all, depending on the translation. In the New International Version there is this verse about success in Matthew: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are” (23:15).

In the New Revised Standard Version, Paul writes to the Christians in Rome, “I remember you always in my prayers, asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you” (Romans 1:9-10). Paul is praying for success in visiting them, and that seems fair enough.

And then there is this verse in Romans 9:31 in the New Living Translation: “But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded.”

In the New International Version and other translations, the word succeed(ed) is not used in any of these three passages—and it would be no help in advocating success as popularly promoted today even if that word had been used.

In contrast, the New Testament does often talk about being faithful and about enduring to the end, in spite of difficulties and what would generally be thought of as failures. According to Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells his followers, “anyone who endures to the end will be saved” (24:13).

And in the book of Revelation, that significant part of the New Testament written during the time of persecution in which Christian believers experienced nothing that would generally be considered success, John is commanded to write to the church in Smyrna, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (1:10).

So, to many Christians through the ages, especially to those who live and witness in hostile lands and those who are faced with persecution, it is not only true to say but also important to realize that the New Testament word for success is, after all, faithfulness.


[1] These books were written by Russell H. Conwell (1843-1925), Napoleon Hill (1883-1970), Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993), Stephen R. Covey (1932-2012), and Jack Canfield (b. 1944). Especially the last four were also the authors of other highly “successful” books about success.

[2] Lakewood Church in 2017 was said to have a weekly attendance of 43,500 people. In addition to preaching regularly, Osteen (b. 1963) also writes often on the Lakewood Church blog, and some of his articles, especially in past years, were expressions of the so-called “prosperity gospel,” according to which financial success can be expected to result from proper or adequate faith.

[3] Creflo Dollar (b. 1962) and his wife (and co-pastor) Taffi started their church in 1986. According to a January 15, 2006, article in the New York Times, Dollar’s “Rolls-Royces, private jets, million-dollar Atlanta home and $2.5 million Manhattan apartment, furnish proof to his followers of the validity of his teachings” about prosperity.

[4] (Zondervan, 2002). Warren (b. 1954) was the founding pastor of the Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. The first services of the new church were held on Easter Sunday in 1980.

[5] (Zondervan, 1995). This book is the last (newest) book introduced in William J. Petersen and Randy Petersen, 100 Christian Books That Changed the Century (Revell, 2000).

[6] Pp. 62-66.

[7] Pp. 53-56.

[8] (Prentice-Hall, 1965), p. 142. Burghardt (1914-2008), the author of several books and many scholarly articles, was the 1962 recipient of the Cardinal Spellman Award for outstanding contributions to the field of sacred theology.

[9] P. 151. Xavier’s last goal was to spread the message of Christ in China, and he reached an island six miles from the Chinese coast. But for months he was stuck on that island, unable to move on to the Chinese mainland, and it was there on that island within sight of his goal he became ill and subsequently died.

#25  Love is More an Attitude and Action than a Feeling

PERHAPS FEW WORDS IN the English language have been used, and misused, more than the word love. Even on the wholly human level, love can refer to the most sublime of feelings and actions of a man or woman for their “soul mate” or for a father or mother for their children. The same word is also often used for frivolous things as a flavor of ice cream or a popular sitcom TV program.

[To read the rest of this chapter, click here.]

#23  What We Do Is More Important than What We Believe

ORTHODOXY IS A WORD that has had a long and checkered history in the two-millennia-long story of the Christian faith. While the idea of orthodoxy was not completely absent even in New Testament times,[1] the emphasis on the importance of orthodoxy was not prevalent in Christianity until the fourth century. The Ecumenical Councils of the church, beginning with the Council of Nicaea in 325, composed creeds which were intended to separate orthodoxy from heresy. More precisely, the religious and political leaders sought to remove those deemed to be heretics from the orthodox within the Church. Continue reading “#23  What We Do Is More Important than What We Believe”

#22  Jesus Expects His Followers to be Peacemakers

ORIGINALLY, THIS WAS NOT one of the chapters planned for this book. But in the process of writing the previous chapter, I became aware of how closely related are the ideas of simple living and peacemaking. In looking back at exemplary Christians through the centuries, most of those most interested in simple living were also interested in peacemaking, and many of those most interested in peacemaking were also interested in simple living.

In that connection, through the years I have also become increasingly cognizant of how there seems to be a significant economic factor behind most major historical events, including, and especially, wars. In spite of all the high-sounding rhetoric, wars are almost always fought for economic reasons, at least in part.

In his State of the Union message in January 2002, President George W. Bush referred to three countries as “the axis of evil.” Those three countries were Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. The next year war was launched against Iraq, and there have been repeated rumblings about a future war against Iran. While the government of North Korea has often been renounced, however, until briefly in 2017 there has been little talk of going to war against that country. What is the difference? It is hard to deny that the abundance of oil in the Middle East and the scarcity of oil in North Korea was likely the major reason Iran and Iraq were targeted and North Korea was not.

If population pressures, the need for natural resources, the desire for markets are all factors lying behind most wars (a generalization that, admittedly, some historians would disagree with), it is not hard to understand that an emphasis on simple living is closely related to peacemaking.

St. Francis Again

Murray Bodo is a Franciscan priest and the author of several books about Francis of Assisi.  His best-selling book is Francis, the Journey and the Dream, which has sold over 200,000 copies.[1] When I read that book a few years ago, I was most impressed with the chapter called “Francis before the Sultan.” It is a historical fact that Francis participated in the fifth crusade, first called for by Pope Innocent III, the pope that blessed Francis in their historic encounter before the papal throne in 1209. Ten years later, in the midst of the crusade, Francis went to Egypt, the main site of the fighting, and ended up having another historic encounter, this time with Malik al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt and the leader of the Muslim forces fighting against the Christians.

Bodo conjectures that it was there before the powerful Islamic leader that Francis voiced his widely-known and oft-quoted prayer that begins, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” Whether Francis actually was able to articulate that prayer before the sultan is not known, but it is quite certain that his purpose for risking his life to see the Muslim leader was with the intention of making peace. Following Jesus, for Francis, meant not only living a simple life but also seeking in every way possible to be a peacemaker.

Paul Moses, a journalist who became a university professor, has written The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace, a book about that dramatic meeting of Francis and Malik al-Kamil.[2] In his fascinating book, Moses mentions that Francis’ “devotion to Lady Poverty has always received more attention than his peacemaking efforts. The two, however,” he goes on to assert, “are closely linked since, as Francis knew, wars are so often fought for economic gain.”[3]

Francis did not succeed in ending the Fifth Crusade. But he did engage in a time of dialogue with the Muslim leader, talks that seem to have gone on for several days. And, as Moses significantly points out, Francis clearly showed Sultan al-Kamil “what it meant to be a true Christian, a holy person who truly believed Jesus’ call to love the enemy” (p. 145).

Peacemakers are not always successful, but as I discuss in a later chapter, the New Testament word for success is faithfulness. Francis was faithful to the teaching of Jesus. Today, many Christians seem to be more prone to follow the government’s call to war than Jesus’ call to peace. For Francis, though, following Jesus meant to go against the popes who had called for the crusade and against Cardinal Pelagius who was the hands-on leader of the Crusaders who fought in Egypt during the time Francis was there. [4] For Francis, following Jesus meant actively seeking to be an instrument of peace.

Other Examples from the Past

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries there were others who believed, and lived, very much like Francis and his band of friars. One group centered around a man whose name is sometimes given as Peter Waldo, a wealthy merchant in Lyon, France, who gave up his wealth and embraced a life of voluntary poverty.[5] His followers, who are known as Waldensians, came to be known not only for their simple lifestyle but also for their pacifism and their refusal to take oaths.

Centuries later, some Christians in and around Zurich, Switzerland, began to hold several views similar to those of the Waldensians (and similar also to those of Francis except for his loyalty to the Catholic Church). Simple living, refusal of oaths, and pacifism were key emphases of the “Swiss Brethren,” who in January 1525 performed the first baptism of adults who had already received infant baptism. This was the beginning of the movement of Christians who came to be called Anabaptists (meaning re-baptizers) by their opponents called.

In the present day, the Anabaptist tradition is most clearly seen in the Mennonite churches in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Named after the Dutch reformer Menno Simons,[6] this group rejected the extremes of some Anabaptists who used violence. Rather, they emphasized the pacifist position, and that has been a hallmark of their churches through the centuries. The Mennonites are one of the three so-called peace churches in the U.S.[7]

Peace Advocates in the Present

Although most Christians seemingly agree with the “just war” theory that goes back to the time of Augustine, there are now some Christians in many denominations who are outspoken opponents of war and ardent advocates of peace. This is true even for some who are members of the Roman Catholic Church, which has been the most heavily involved in “holy wars” in the past, particularly the Crusades from the end of the eleventh century until the thirteenth century. (Of course, until the sixteenth century there weren’t many other Christian groups.)

Before he converted to the Orthodox Church in 1988, Jim Forest was a Catholic for some twenty-five years, and during that time he founded the Catholic Peace Fellowship.[8] There were many notable Catholic pacifists before Forest, of course: one thinks particularly of Dorothy Day, founder of The Catholic Worker,[9] Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk,[10] and Daniel and Philip Berrigan, the pacifist Catholic priests who were often in the news during the Vietnam War.[11]

And the work for peace continues with the activities of younger Catholic peacemakers. One of the most active at this time is John Dear, a Jesuit priest, who was awarded the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award in 2010.[12]

There are also a number of Christian peace groups, such as the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, to which I have belonged for many years. Members of these fellowships are not all pacifists, but all are committed to seeking non-violent ways to end regional, national, and international conflicts.

While first working on this chapter I made a blog posting on the “Top Ten Christians,” the people after New Testament and early church times, but now deceased, whom I at that time considered the “best” Christians in history. In looking back at that list, I realized that they all, to varying degrees, espoused Christian pacifism.

Then, I began thinking about composing a list of the “top ten” living Christians. In some ways, that was more difficult, but, again, for the most part those who made the list are strong opponents of war and are active in peace and justice activities.

To give just one example, two people I considered when I first started working on the latter list were Nelson Mandela (who was still alive) and Desmond Tutu. Those two South Africans were agents of peace and reconciliation in the midst of a harsh social system of oppression. Tutu, who became an Anglican archbishop, fully deserved the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in 1984, as did Mandela, who was given the same award in 1993.

Mandela and Tutu are good examples of Christians who are living faithfully according to the teachings of Jesus Christ by seeking peace and reconciliation. They were active peacemakers in South Africa in much the same way the late Martin Luther King, Jr., was in the United States—and it is no surprise that King, too, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.[13]

Peacemaking as Love in Action

One of King’s notable books contains fifteen sermons published under the title Strength to Love.[14] Two sermons appearing early in the book are “Love in Action” and “Love Your Enemies,” and then the final sermon is “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence.” Those sermons sum up well what everyone needs to realize about love, which is at the core of the Christian faith.

Christian pacifists, such as Francis of Assisi as well as the descendants of the Swiss Brethren and the other pacifistic Anabaptists, do not base their peacemaking activities upon the optimistic belief that people are basically good and that peace can result from that goodness if people just tap into it and talk to each other in a rational manner. No, Christian pacifism is primarily based on Jesus’ teachings about love.

Christian pacifism does not necessarily “work” in every case. You might say it didn’t “work” for Jesus. It didn’t work for numerous Christian martyrs through the centuries, people who out of obedience to Christ were willing to shed their own blood rather than to be engaged in killing other people. They took literally Jesus’ words, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

And so to the present time, many of those who take Jesus’ teaching seriously refuse to support war, for they do not see how it would be possible to love their enemies if they were also seeking to kill them through warfare.

Christians often find themselves in a bind when they seek to follow Jesus’ teaching in a country that has declared war. Fortunately, this country has made allowance for “conscientious objectors,” but that is not an option for Christians in some countries—and it is not always easy to “get off the hook” that way in this country. And by “getting off the hook” I don’t mean to imply that no service is required of those who are pacifists. In lieu of military service, other types of activity are required, and generally positively embraced by COs.

There is one more important point that needs to be recognized here: pacifism does not mean “passivism,” and many peace activists talk about the necessity of waging peace.[15] Real peacemakers are not passive. They are not cowards who sit on the sidelines while others are out in the “real world” doing all the “dirty work.” People like Dorothy Day, M.L. King, Jr., John Dear, and many others have made it quite clear that peacemaking is hard, dangerous work. And most of the people who want to be “good” Christians fall far short of the example that people like them have set.

In a world where Christianity has often been entwined with war and warlike activities, in the past more than in the present, people like Day, King, and Dear challenge us to realize that Jesus expects his followers to be peacemakers. This is another “true thing” that everyone needs to recognize.


[1] (Second ed., Saint Anthony Messenger Press, 1988; first published in 1972). Bodo (b. 1937) became a Franciscan in 1955 and has been leading pilgrimages to Assisi since 1976.

[2] (Doubleday, 2009). Moses (b. 1948) joined the Journalism faculty at Brooklyn College in 2001.

[3] Pp. 37-38. Perhaps that was especially true of most wars during the Middle Ages, including the war between Assisi and Perguia, in which Francis had fought, and became a prisoner of, in 1202.

[4] Cardinal Pelagius (c.1165-1230) was the papal legate dispatched by Pope Honorius III to lead the Fifth Crusade at Damietta in Egypt; it is widely recognized that he made a poor strategic decision in turning down peace offers made by al-Kamil.

[5] Waldo’s dates are uncertain, but he was born around 1140 and probably died around 1218, although he may have died much earlier. He had gathered a large number of followers, sometimes called the Poor of Lyon, by 1170, more than a decade before Francis’ birth.

[6] Simons (1496-1561) was a Catholic priest who converted to the Anabaptist expression of Christianity in 1536.

[7] The other two are the Society of Friends (Quakers), whose beginning is traced back to George Fox in mid-seventeenth century England, and the Church of the Brethren, which originated in Germany in 1708 and is sometimes called the Dunkers or German Baptist Brethren. In the U.S., their Annual Conference of 1935 made the church’s position on pacifism clear by declaring that “all war is sin.” Currently, the Community of Christ (formerly the RLDS) is in the process of becoming a peace church.

[8] Forest (b. 1941) was also a key member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation for many years, including his service for more than a decade (1977-88) as Secretary General of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

[9] Day (1897-1980) started The Catholic Worker in the early 1930s, and she is another good example of one who greatly emphasized both justice for the poor and under-privileged people of society and world peace through non-violence.

[10] Merton (1915-68) grew increasingly insistent on nonviolence and peacemaking. David W. Givey’s revised book The Social Thought of Thomas Merton: The Way of Nonviolence and Peace for the Future (Anselm Academic, 2009) explores Merton’s evolution in that direction.

[11] Daniel (1921-2016) and Philip (1923-2002) were both Catholic priests who engaged in extensive nonviolent protests in opposition to the Vietnam War.

[12] Dear (b. 1959) has written some twenty-five books on peace and has been arrested at least seventy-five times for civil disobedience as he protested war and violence. He has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, including by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2008.

[13] When King (1929-1968) was awarded the Peace Prize in 1964, he was the youngest person to ever receive that prestigious award.

[14] First published in 1963, this book was re-issued by Fortress Press in 1981 with a foreword by Coretta Scott King, the widow of M.L. King, Jr.

[15] I first became aware of this idea probably in the late 1970s or early 1980s as it was an emphasis of Sojourners. Jim Wallis, founder and editor of that magazine, is also the editor of Waging Peace: A Handbook for the Struggle Against Nuclear Arms (Harper & Row, 1982).

#21 Too Little Is Almost Always Better than Too Much

MY CHILDREN PROBABLY DIDN’T appreciate me mentioning it so much, but from time to time I would say to them, “Too little is almost always better than too much.” That saying was not in harmony with the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, in which we were living then—or are living now. In the United States, as in most of the “developed world,” the winds of capitalism have blown over the land so strongly that, fanned by the ubiquitous commercials on television, radio, and newspapers, the desire of most people is for more and more material things.

Generally, people don’t like to think about or use the word greed, especially in referring to themselves, but upon careful analysis it is hard not to think that that word is applicable to much of the consumerism rampant in capitalist societies. Of course, greed means the excessive desire to acquire more, especially more and more material possessions, than what one needs. But the question is always about what is enough and what is, truly, excessive.

Compared to the vast majority of the people in the world, most of us middle-class people in North America, Europe, and Japan possess much more than we really need. And considering the sizeable portion of the world’s population who live in poverty, the middle class, to say nothing of the upper class, definitely have excessive possessions. (Of course, many of those middle-class people, especially in this country, have excessive debts as well.)

So it is in thinking about the problem of economic imbalance in the world, about matters of justice and equality, that led me to say to my children that too little is almost always better than too much. What seems like too little is usually enough; what is too much is usually wasteful and/or extravagant. Consuming too much is a problem for those who take seriously the words of the Bible admonishing people to love their neighbors as they love themselves.

The Extreme Example of St. Francis

One of my favorite people of all time is Francis of Assisi. As I write this, I am reflecting on my recent reading of some books about him. I am impressed all over again at the way Francis lived out of what he thought was obedience to the example and teaching of Jesus Christ. And for Francis that meant, among other things, a commitment to what he called Lady Poverty.

The Last Christian is a book I had heard of for years but just read for the first time shortly before initially writing this chapter.[1] The author’s point is that perhaps no one else before or after Francis ever lived so much like Jesus, so if following Jesus is what it means to be a Christian, perhaps he was, indeed, the last Christian.

Jesus said, in what we know as the Sermon on the Mount, “Don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them. Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well.”[2] Francis lived as though he really believed those words to be true.

Francesco Bernardone (1181/2-1226), whom we know as Francis of Assisi, grew up in an affluent home in central Italy. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant, and in his youth Francis enjoyed the “good life” that his father’s money made possible. But when he was in his early twenties, he decided that a life such as he had been living was not satisfactory. He felt that he must seek to live much differently.

Although it probably was not as dramatic as depicted in the movie “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,”[3] Francis’ break with his affluent lifestyle, which meant a break with his father and his abundance, was a “big deal.” And his “downsizing” was permanent. So his was, and is, a clarion call to a simple lifestyle.

Of course few, if any now, can live completely in the way Francis did. Even those of his own group during his lifetime, and especially those who lived later and came to be known as Franciscans, were not able to live as simply as Francis did. But Francis’ example has been influential among many people who have sought to live a simpler lifestyle than they previously lived and/or than most of the people around them live. They live more simply than would likely have been the case without Francis’ example.

So even though extreme, through the centuries and still today Francis of Assisi has helped many people to see that when it comes to material things, too little is almost always better than too much.

The Simple Living Movement

In the 1960s and 1970s there was considerable talk among some Christians about “simple living.” A prominent British missionary and theologian wrote a book published in 1975 called Enough Is Enough,[4] and another book I remember reading back then had the unlikely title No More Plastic Jesus.[5] One of the significant parts of the latter book is about the Shakertown Pledge, written in 1973, which includes the promise, “I commit myself to lead a life of creative simplicity and to share my personal wealth with the world’s poor.”

In addition to Francis, whom we have just considered, during that time some Christians, and Christian groups, who were rooted in the Anabaptist movement of the sixteenth century also made considerable emphasis on simple living. In the early 1970s, I first read, and was significantly influenced by, The New Left and Christian Radicalism, a small book by Arthur G. Gish.[6] Simple living, as well as pacifism, was a part of the focus of that powerful work. So in addition to opposition to the Vietnam War, which was a part of the emphasis of Gish’s work, along with some other Christians during that time I became quite interested in the simple living movement. That is when I first started saying to my children, “Too little is almost always better than too much.”

Also in the 1970s, “Live simply so that others may simply live” was a quite popular slogan in some circles.[7] The idea behind that statement, of course, is that those who voluntarily choose to live simply will have more resources to share with those who don’t have enough to live on.

There has been some emphasis on simple living in more recent years. For example, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Simple Living was published in 2000.[8] And even more recently, and more specifically related to Christianity, Francis Chan, the founding pastor of a megachurch in California, has written about the implications of loving others as self in his bestselling book Crazy Love.[9] But more than writing about that concept, which is so often talked about but rarely implemented to any significant degree by Christian preachers and others, Chan and his church have exemplified what that means in actual practice.

According to reports, Chan gives away about ninety percent of his income and has not received a salary from his church. In addition, by 2009 he had donated all of his book royalties, which totaled about $500,000, to various charities. Much of his charitable giving went to help rescue sex slaves in foreign countries. As for the church he founded, in 2008 it was reported that it would give away 55% of its income to charitable causes. The church also decided to build an amphitheater rather than go to the expense of erecting a large and expensive building.

David Platt, an even younger pastor, has written Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, which was a bestselling book in 2010[10] and even attracted the attention of the New York Times op-ed writer David Books.[11] One chapter of Platt’s challenging book is “How Much is Enough?” In that chapter he calls on readers to cap their lifestyle. He suggests that people live as if they made $50,000 a year and give everything else away.[12] There are, of course, many people in this country, and most people in most countries around the world, who would very much like to live on $50,000 a year but can’t—because their income is less (and often far, far less) than that. Still, for many people in this country to give away all above $50,000 a year would be a move in the right direction toward a simpler lifestyle.

Loving Neighbor as Self

The two examples given in the previous section make reference to loving one’s neighbor as oneself. But what does that really mean, and is that something that can actually be put into practice?

There are some secular people who try to implement simple living primarily for their own benefit. And it has to be recognized that from Francis of Assisi to Francis Chan part of the motivation of Christians to live simply has been for the sake of being freed of the burden of possessions, liberated to enjoy life more by focusing on non-material values. So, simple living is not completely for the purpose of helping others, although it invariably leads to that in most cases. In its most sublime form, simple living is primarily for the purpose of seeking to love neighbor as self.

And, still, there is the age-old question, “Who is my neighbor?” But Jesus answered that question pretty well, saying in effect that one’s neighbor is anyone in need whom one has the opportunity of helping.[13] In response to the lawyer’s question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Then the lawyer, wanting to justify himself, asked, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded by what is usually called “the parable of the good Samaritan.” Someone has suggested that if he were telling that story in the U.S. today, Jesus might have told about the good Muslim. The point is that “neighbor” doesn’t refer to someone like us or someone who lives in our neighborhood. Our neighbor, according to Jesus, is someone in need that we have the means and opportunity to help. So in Jesus’ parable it was a Samaritan, a person who was generally looked down upon in Jewish society of that day, who was the one who acted neighborly.

Caring for the poor has a long history in the Christian church. The current Catechism of the Catholic Church makes the church’s position clear, saying that the church’s love for the poor “is a part of her constant tradition.” That love “is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor.” The same Catechism clearly declares, “Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use,” and then it cites the stinging words of Archbishop John Chrysostom (c.349~407): “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life.”[14]

The language is not quite as strong, but centuries later Thomas Aquinas, the eminent thirteenth-century Catholic theologian, wrote, “One should not consider one’s material possessions as one’s own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.” Those words were cited by Pope Leo XII, who went on to declare, “But when what necessity demands has been supplied and one’s standing fairly provided for, it becomes a duty to give to the needy out of what remains over.”[15] By implication, not doing our duty to help the needy is the same as stealing from them.

There are many ways in the modern world that the rich steal from the poor, and over-consumption is one of those ways. That is the reason one of the things important for everyone to know now is that, when it comes to middle-class peoples’ use of material things, too little is almost always better than too much.


[1] (Doubleday & Co., 1980). Written by Austrian Catholic theologian Adolf Holl (b. 1930), this book was first published in German in 1979 and then translated into English by Peter Heinegg.

[2] Matthew 6:31-33, New Century Version. I have used this translation because the words usually translated God’s righteousness is here rendered what God wants, which is the meaning of God’s righteousness in this case.

[3] This 1972 film was directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starred Graham Faulkner and Judi Bowker. Zeffirelli’s movie attempted to draw parallels between the work and philosophy of Francis and the ideology that underpinned the worldwide hippie movement of the 1960s and early 1970s. It has a bit different “feel” when viewed in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

[4] John V. Taylor was the author of this book published by SCM Press after he had been consecrated the Bishop of Winchester. This is the same man who wrote Go-Between God, a book I referred to earlier in the chapter on the Holy Spirit.

[5] The subtitle of this book by Adam Daniel Finnerty is Global Justice and Christian Lifestyle (Orbis Books, 1977).

[6] (Eerdmans, 1970). Gish (1939-2010) grew up in the Amish community and later became an active member in the Church of the Brethren.

[7] Those words are often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), and it is easy to think that perhaps he did speak those words from time to time, but it seems that the first person on record to make that statement was Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821), who, in 1925, was the first person born in the United States to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

[8] Written by Georgene Lockwood and published by Alpha Books. She is the author of nine books, including two more in the Complete Idiot’s Guides series.

[9] (David C. Cook, 2008). Chan was born in Hong Kong in 1967. In 1994 he and his wife started what is now the Cornerstone Church in Ventura County, California; they left that ministry in 2910.

[10] Platt (b. 1979) became the new senior pastor of the 4,300-member Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2006. It was reported that perhaps he was thereby the youngest megachurch pastor ever. From 2014 to 2018 Pratt was the President of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

[11] Brooks’ article “The Gospel of Wealth” was published in the September 6, 2010, edition of the Times.

[12] It was somewhat disconcerting to read an article in the Wall Street Journal the very next today after Brook’s article appeared that said that happiness increases for those have increased income up to about $75,000 a year (Robert Frank, “The Perfect Salary for Happiness: $75,000”).

[13] What is generally called “the parable of the good Samaritan,” was Jesus’ response to the “lawyer” who asked him, “And who is my neighbor,” according to Luke 10:29.

[14] Chrysostom (c.347-407), one of the Church Fathers, is recognized both by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church as a saint and a Doctor of the Church. Reference to Chrysostom was made in the first chapter of this book.

[15] Leo’s statement was made in Rerum Novarum, the highly significant encyclical he issued in 1891. The statements of both Pope Leo and Thomas Aquinas are cited in “Stealing from the Poor,” an article by Tito Edwards in the July 30, 2010, issue of “The American Catholic.”