(87) S5E9 SOTM: Topaz
Continuing the Sermon on the Mount working through Mt. 6:1-4.
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- Richard Rohr's "Sermon on the Mount": https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003A0IASQ/ref=cm_sw_r_em_api_uOXEFbGCN7ASQ
- Dallas Willard's "The Divine Conspiracy": https://www.amazon.com/Divine-Conspiracy-Rediscovering-Hidden-Life/dp/0007596545/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=dallas+willard+divine+conspiracy&qid=1601907374&sr=8-1
The greed of gold borne in the soul abounds
A voice inside our heads which drives us mad
Our one goal, to control, always resounds
Pride completing endogenous dyad
Wealth makes it all too easy to be smug
And become a bad friend like Eliphaz
Or even worse, wealth fabricates humbug
Making God a servant to our topaz
So heed the words of him with golden mouth
Never allow complacency to set
For our God is the Lord of Sabaoth
Before whom one day all knees will be bent
Give your gifts now with generosity
And learn wherein lies true security
[Mt. 6:1-4]. Topaz is a yellow gem which signified wealth and gold and was believed to attract gold to the wearer.
There is a double meaning here. First, borne in the soul means what it says, which is that greed is carried by the soul. There is a weight and a marring done to our soul as it carries greed. But greed is also born or formed in our souls. It isn’t what’s on the outside that defiles us, but that which comes from the inside. Greed is not born when we come in contact with gold, but is born on the inside of us. This greed isn’t all that particular to individuals, but it abounds both in terms of who it affects (all people), and in terms of how greatly it affects each of us.
The dyad – the two part composition of every human (if you’re a dualist, like most Christians are), begins as pride seeking control. In our arrogance we set ourselves up as gods and believe we are the center of the universe. We ourselves are worth preserving and elevating. In order to accomplish our ascension to divinity, we must have control. We must control not only the environment around us (for both pleasure and security), but also individuals. This dyad is endogenous, or created internally (just as was referenced a few lines earlier where evil comes out of us, it doesn’t go into us) and is common to all humanity. There is also a double meaning intended here, as “dyad” should trigger the thought of the very close word “dryad.” Dryads were the living beings who inhabited trees in Greek mythology. While often considered beautiful and wonderful, encounters with them could also be very dangerous, leaving one mad, dumb, etc. Here, endogenous dyad (or dryad) signifies that this pride and control are the true spirit residing within our corporeal trunks (bodies) – a spirit which when encountered and fed can perpetuate and exacerbate our maddened state.
Eliphaz was one of Job’s friends. He came from a land known for its wisdom. Many interpretations of the name “Eliphaz” show it as meaning “El (or god, as in ‘elohim’) is fine gold.” This name adds to the gold theme, but so does Eliphaz’s actions. Eliphaz promoted what we would call a prosperity gospel today. He, a wealthy and wise man, sat smugly in his perceived wealth. He though his wealth and security were tied to his morality. He was untouchable by God because he was a good man. Conversely, the judgment which befell Job must have been because Job was morally compromised. In this way, Eliphaz was blind to his own sinfulness before God, but also blind to the great insecurity in his life despite his current wellbeing. His trust was not in God but in his own perceived morality and wealth.
Wealth constructs a deceitful story (humbug). I use “fabricate” here in a triple sense, as fabricate can mean to “construct” or can also mean “lie/deceive.” It’s a double emphasis on wealth’s ability to deceive us and misguide us. It is also a literary reference to the infamous Scrooge whose most famous word was “humbug.” In this sense, wealth has a tendency to harden our hearts like scrooge. That’s because the greatest deception of wealth is that God is not the giver of wealth, but that God is subservient to it. By bowing our knees to wealth as our security, we are telling God that these things are better and safer than he is. We elevate pleasure and security while denigrating God.
“Lord of Sabaoth” occurs twice in the New Testament of which I’m aware (Rom. 9:29 and James 5:4), at least in the King James Version it goes untranslated. The word means “armies.”
The man with a golden mouth refers to John Chrysostom, whose name meant “golden mouthed.” He was supposedly an unparalleled orator. I use him here because his name is yet one more reference to gold in this poem. I also use Chrysostom because in his book “On Wealth and Poverty,” he addresses wealth and greed. Of it, he says, “In this way luxury often leads to forgetfulness. As for you, my beloved, if you sit at table, remember that from the table you must go to prayer. Fill your belly so moderately that you may not become too heavy to bend your knees and call upon your God.” So in this stanza, I allude to Chrysostom’s quote here, reminding individuals that we must never be complacent, we must remember our God, and that our God is the ultimate judge before whom all knees will bow. If we are too caught up in our wealth now and running after it rather than bowing the knee before our God now, we will one day end up bowing the knee before him anyway, though it will be under different circumstances – judgment vs. service.
Matthew 5 tells us to be perfect like God is perfect, then goes on to describe generosity as a part of how such a feat is to be accomplished. By giving our money away without consideration of another’s praise or without consideration of the practicality of the act, we learn to trust God both for our means and for the outcome of our gifts. As we learn to be generous, our faith in God grows and our dependence on wealth diminishes. Ironically, it is in this giving away of our wealth and placing of our trust in God that our security grows.