Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sun Shining on Just and Unjust Alike ala Augustine

In reading through Augustine's City of God, early in book 1, Augustine takes on the question of why the unjust receive good things. The heading of Book 1, Section 8 is actually "Of the advantages and disadvantages which often indiscriminately accrue to good and wicked men." Augustine uses some language of storing up some reward (either wrath or blessing in judgment) that is reminiscent of Jesus' words in the Matthew 6 text appointed for Ash Wednesday.

First off, Augustine points out that if God meted justice out for every sin committed, there would be nothing left for the final judgment. In addition, he writes:

And so of the good things of this life: if God did not by a very visible liberality confer these on some of those persons who ask for them, we should say that these good things were not at his disposal; and if he gave them to all who sought them, we should suppose that such were the only rewards of his service; and such a service would make us not godly, but greedy rather, and covetous.
In other words, if God simply handed out wealth and other worldly goods according to his favor, then we would be led to believe that that is all God is handing out. We could too easily miss the reality of what God is doing.

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