by St. John of Kronstadt.
Many Christians experience times of need and material hardship throughout their life. It can be said that the majority of true Christians do not possess a great surplus of material goods - they should not even have them. The Lord has commanded us: “Sell that ye have and give alms” (Luke 12:33). Thus Christians should act according to the words of the prophet King David: “He has given away to the poor; his truth remains unto the ages.”
The Lord usually refrains from showering His servants with riches which pose danger for them (“a rich man shall hardly enter into the Kingdom of Heaven”). Apostle Paul writes to Timothy: “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
As St. John of Kronstadt says: “God could have made everyone well-off, even wealthy, but then most people would have fallen away from God, and pride, envy and other sins would have increased. If God had made you a saint, you would have thought highly of yourself. But in the same way that sin humbles you, showing you your great frailty, iniquity and constant need of God and His grace, so a poor man is humbled by his poverty and need of other people. If beggars were to be made rich, many of them would forget God and their benefactors, would lose their souls amid the luxuries of this world. So destructive is wealth and so it blinds the spiritual eyes. It makes the heart coarse and thankless.”
At the same time, the Lord allows His chosen ones to fall occasionally into poverty, in order to give them an even greater reward for their patience. And in such a case the Christian should not make a special effort to achieve greater prosperity.
St. Seraphim said thus to the abbesses of his Diveevo convent: “I could have made you rich, but it would not have been beneficial for you.” And elder Siluan writes: “Be content with what you have, even if you do not have anything. Be content and thank God that you do not have anything. Be content with serving God, and He will rank you among the saints.”
St. Theophanus the Recluse writes: “What is our lot if not the will of God? Both material well-being and deprivation, sent to us by God, are undoubtedly given to us with a view towards our salvation.”
When taking out a loan, a Christian must be extremely cautious. In such a case one must show the same faith as when taking medications, and think: “If such were the will of the Lord, He Himself would have given me in accordance with my need.”
But if a Christian still decides to ask for a loan, he should ask for it humbly as though it were charity. He doesn’t know whether he will be able to repay his benefactor: perhaps he will die soon or will fall into even greater need.
Therefore, he should ask only in case of extreme need, ask not more than he needs, and thank his benefactor as though receiving charity. This, of course, does not preclude the necessity of repaying the debt in due time.
In cases where an unpaid debt burdens the soul of the lender and throws him into anxiety, this cannot but have an effect on the soul of the debtor, depriving it of peace and tranquility. A certain novice in the Shamordino convent saw in her dreams a close friend of hers, also a novice, who had reposed 40 days ago. The deceased said: “I have come to ask forgiveness of a certain woman. I still owe her 10 kopeks. It is in order to rectify this that I have been allowed to come here, but only for a short while.” The following day the woman lender came to see the novice, asked about her debtor and, upon hearing that the latter had died, expressed regret over her lost money. The novice then gave 10 kopeks to the wailing woman, so that the debt would not bother her deceased friend. Thus even a small debt had deprived the deceased’s soul of peace.