God’s chosen ones

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” From the letter of St. Paul to the Colossians.

This short letter from St. Paul to the believers in Colossae, is full of good advice for Christian living. Colossae was in the region of Phrygia and Galatia, in Asia Minor. In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke records some details of St. Paul journeys in that area, but there is no direct evidence of him visiting Colosse. In chapter 2, he mentions that they have not seen his face. None the less, it seems the reports coming to him may have shown him the need for some admonishment and correction, along with his gratitude for them. They had been influenced by some of the non-Christian population there, which made them question their faith. He points out that false teachers have tried to steer them from the true path.

In Chapter 2, he writes,

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh.”

St. Paul goes on to remind them that they have been raised to a new life in Christ. He tells them, in Chapter 3,

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Now we come to today’s selection of the letter.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.

St. Paul is issuing a very serious warning. A new life in Christ should cause us to put away the old ways, and live in the new ways of Christ. He contrasts the five earthly behaviors with five heavenly ones; compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. These are the marks of Christian living, not only for the Colossians, but for us as well.

In the Gospel reading, we heard about a man who came to Jesus to settle a dispute between him and his brother. Jesus will not be the judge of this matter, but he takes the opportunity to teach about one of these earthly behaviors. The man in the story has stored up so much grain that he needs ever bigger store houses for all of his grain and his goods. Once he has this he believes he is secure for the future. Jesus has a harsh word for him, because he has stored up for himself, and not for God.

Jesus is warning the man about the sin of greed, which is the inordinate love of money or some other thing. Greed is one of those sins that can sneak up on you. We must be careful that we do not put our trust in possessions, because in the end, as the Preacher of Ecclesiastes wrote, it’s all in vain, because it does not last forever. Wealth is used best when it is put to use in God’s kingdom, which lasts forever.

You, too, have died to the elemental spirits of the universe because of your baptism, so strive to live with these Christian virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. In so doing you will be storing up your riches in the kingdom of heaven, where we will have eternal life with our Father.

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