Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Sirach 27 – The dangers of being in business or commerce: “It is difficult for a merchant to avoid doing wrong and for a salesman not to incur sin. Many have sinned for the sake of profit, he who hopes to be rich much be ruthless” (27:1).
“The kiln tests the work of the potter, the test of a man is in his conversation” (27:4).
Do not betray the confidence of friends. You will lose them, “[f]or a wound can be bandaged and abuse forgiven, but for the man who has betrayed a secret there is no hope” (27:21).
On hypocrisy: “The man with a sly wink is plotting mischief, no one can dissuade him from it. Honey-tongued to your face, he is lost in admiration at your words; but behind your back he has other things to say, and makes your own words sound offensive” (27:22-23).
Sirach 28 – On vengeance: “He who exacts vengeance will experience the vengeance of the Lord, who keeps strict account of sin. Forgive your neighbor the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven” (28:1-2).
“Remember the last things, and stop hating, remember dissolution and death, and live by the commandments” (28:6).
“[A] man’s rage depends on his strength, his fury grows fiercer in proportion to his wealth” (28:11).
Sirach 29 – On Loans: “Lend to your neighbor in his time of need, and in your turn repay your neighbor on time. Be as good as your word and keep faith with him, and you will find your needs met every time” (29:1-3).
“Many, not out of malice, refuse to lend; they are merely anxious not to be cheated for nothing” (29:7).
“Better let your silver go on brother or friend, do not let it go to waste, rusting under a stone. Invest your treasure as the Most High orders, and you will find it more profitable than gold” (29:10-11).
“The first thing in life is water, and bread, and clothing, and a house for the sake of privacy. Better a poor man’s life under a roof of planks, than lavish fare in the house of another” (29:21-22).
Acts 13:26-52 - He tells of Jesus’ death and resurrection. “[I]t is through him that forgiveness of your sins is proclaimed. Through him justification from all sins which the Law of Moses was unable to justify is offered to every believer” (13:38-39). Then he cites Habbakuk, warning them not to “mock” his message. God is “doing something in your own days” and it is hard for people to accept.
I think this last note is very insightful. I can only imagine what it must have been like for early Christians to be telling Jews that the living God who had nurtured them for so long and given them a narrative and a tradition so important to them was now acting again in history, but in a way that changed the direction they had thought so unmovable. I think that today as ever, our God is a living God. It is utter foolishness to assume that God has sent his last prophet or spoken his last revelatory word to man. I believe he will come again – himself? through prophets? -- to move us forward toward a closer unity of the religious narrative, weaving the separate threads of divine intervention together through prophets who can speak to man through the haze of disbelief, unwarranted certainty and doubt.
The success of Paul and Barnabas raises hackles in some who finally convince some of the more influential members of the synagogue to expel them from their territory. They go to Iconium.