Despising Your Neighbor is Despising God

In one of Paul’s letters to Timothy, he told the young preacher that in the last days, “people will be lovers of themselves” (2 Tim. 3:1 NET). Biblically speaking, there is proper self-love. If you love God first and foremost and your neighbor as yourself, that’s a way to show proper love for yourself (cf. Mt 22:37-40). However, there’s also sinful self-love. It’s when a person loves himself first. Sinful self-love includes love of money and love of pleasure rather than God (2 Tim. 3:1-5). Speaking of sinful self-love in 2 Timothy 3, here are some helpful words from Chrysostom (d. 407).

He that loves himself may be said not to [rightly] love himself. But he that loves his brother loves himself in the truest sense. From self-love springs covetousness. For the wretched greedy attitude of self-love obstructs that love which should be widely extended and diffused to all people….

For he who exalts himself against men will easily do it against God. Thus sins are produced. Often they ascend from below. He that is pious towards men is still more pious towards God. He who is meek to his fellow servants is more meek to his Master. He that despises his fellow-servants will end with despising God Himself.

 Let us not then despise one another, for that is an evil training that teaches us to despise God. And indeed, to despise one another is, in effect, to despise God, who commanded us to show all regard to one another. And this may be otherwise manifested by an example. Cain despised his brother, and so, immediately after, he despised God. How despised Him? Mark his insolent answer to God; “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9.) …The brethren of Joseph despised him, and they also despised God. The Israelites despised Moses, and they also despised God. So too the sons of Eli despised the people, and they too despised God. Would you see it also from the contrary? Abraham, who was tender of his brother’s son, was obedient to God, as is manifest in his conduct with respect to his son Isaac, and in all his other virtues. Again, Abel was meek to his brother, and he also was pious towards God.

Let us not therefore despise one another, lest we learn also to despise God. Let us honor one another, so that we may also learn to honor God.

 John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Second Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to Timothy,” in Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. James Tweed and Philip Schaff, vol. 13,

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002

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