Chrysostom on Humility

ChrysostomJohn Chrysostom was no stranger to the attack of others who proclaimed the word of God, often out of selfish pretense. Thus it is fitting that his homily on Philippians 1:18 would be endued with the power of experience. In Concerning the Lowliness of Mind, Chrysostom argues that humility is the irreducible minimum in theological discourse among brothers and proclamation of the Word within the world.

“For humbleness of mind is the foundation of the love of wisdom which pertains to us. Even if thou shouldest have built a superstructure of things innumerable; even if almsgiving, even if prayer, even if fastings, even if all virute; unless this have first been laid as a foundation, all will be built upon it to no purpose and in vain; and it will fall down easily, like the building which had been placed in the sand.”

For Chrysostom, this form of humility will be manifest in the missionary endeavors of the ministry. A humble ministry will be evident, first, by the audience to whom the Gospel is proclaimed. In sum, the Gospel is to be proclaimed to all. Failure to proclaim the Gospel to any one person was the manifestation of pride demonstrated in a refusal to acknowledge the value of the individual to Christ as demonstrated in the Cross.

“For do not tell me that this or that man is a runaway slave, or a robber, or a thief, or laden with countless faults, or that he is a mendicant and abject, or of low value and worthy of no account: but consider that for his sake the Christ died: and this sufficeth thee for a ground of solicitude. Consider what sort of person he must be, whom Christ valued at so high a price as not to have spared even His own blood.”

Not only is humility demonstrated through the broad proclamation of the Word, but humility is demonstrated by the means through which the Word is proclaimed; namely, the suffering one is willing to endure for the sake of the Word, both in propagation and discipleship.

“For also Paul, dwelling in the whole world just as in one house, thus continually took thought for the salvation of all; and having dismissed every thing of his own; bonds and troubles and stripes and straits, watched over and inquired into each day, in what state the affairs of the disciples were.”

Chrysostom further argues that the means God used to bring such humility to Paul was the bonds which imprisoned him. “Hear at least what comes next, that thou mayest learn that the bonds not only proved no hindrance, but also a ground for greater freedom of speech.”

These chains were not only beneficial to Paul because they caused him to realize that the enemies may “chain his body, but not his tongue,” but they were also beneficial to his disciples. “For the leader of the army was bound, and the soldiers became forward in spirit; and the confidence with which they sprung upon their adversaries was greater: the shepherd was in confinement, and the sheep were not consumed, not even scattered.”Concluding with an admonition to prayer, the ultimate evidence of humility, the golden-mouthed preacher reminds the hearers

“For even if God at any time delay the giving, it is not in hatred and aversion, but from the desire by the deferring of the giving perpetually to retain thee with himself; just in the way also that affectionate fathers do; for they also adroitly manage the perpetual and assiduous attendance of children who are rather indolent by the delay of the giving.”

For Chrysostom, humility was demonstrated in the proclamation of the Word to all, suffering in the proclamation of the Word for all, and praying for the reception of the Word by all. This will result in the fulfillment of Chrysostom’s shortest sermon, “In all things, glory to God, Amen.”


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