Shepherd of Hermas – 1st Similitude

For some reason I expected these similitudes (or parables) to be really crazy allegorical stuff that was rife with controversial content.  But at least this first one is really quite ordinary, as parables go, and even seems to be very similar to one of the images frequented in the New Testament.

The similitude here is comparing our citizenship and investments in our earthly home cities with our citizenship and investments in our heavenly home city.  The angel sets it out quite clearly near the beginning:

If then, you know your city in which you are to dwell, why do ye here provide lands, and make expensive preparations, and accumulate dwellings and useless buildings?  He who makes such preparations for this city cannot return again to his own…. Dost thou not understand that all these things belong to another, and are under the power of another?  For the lord of this city will say ‘I do not wish thee to dwell in my city; but depart from this city, because thou obeyest not my laws.’

What he’s saying here is that our true citizenship is in the heavenly Jerusalem – a city not of this earth.  Therefore, we shouldn’t treat our possessions as if they’re eternal; even our homes and land is temporary.  And they’re not even guaranteed for this life, because the government could kick us out and take our land!  Granted, that scenario was much more real for Christians in the early days than it is for Americans today.  Although, there are examples of Christians having to walk away from their church properties when they leave a denomination, for fear of lawsuits.  Not as serious as being exiled from the country, but it’s analogous.  The point is that we can’t grow too attached to these worldly dwellings, lest we allow them to replace our hope in our heavenly dwelling.

Have a care, then, ye who serve the Lord and have Him in your heart, that ye work the works of God, remembering His commandments and promises which He promised, and believe that He will bring them to pass if His commandments be observed.  Instead of lands, therefore, buy afflicted souls, according as each one is able, and visit widows and orphans, and do not overlook them; and spend your wealth and all your preparations, which ye received from the Lord, upon such lands and houses.  For to this end did the Master make you rich, that you might perform these services unto Him; and it is much better to purchase such lands, and possessions, and houses, as you will find in your own city, when you come to reside in it.

This touches on the popular buzzword ‘stewardship.’  If we’re rich, it’s primarily so we can be more generous, and less so that we can improve our own standard of living.  Our concern for ourselves is not to exceed our concern for others.  The whole similitude can be summed by two verses of Jesus’ words:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

After that, is there really anything more that needs to be said?


About Fr. Brench

I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about liturgy & spiritual formation, theology & biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
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