I know that many artisans, belonging to mechanical trades, are crowding around me. A day’s labour hardly suffices to maintain them; therefore I am compelled to abridge my discourse, so as not to keep them too long from their work. What shall I say to them? The time which you lend to God is not lost: he will return it to you with large interest. Whatever difficulties may trouble you the Lord will disperse them. To those who have preferred spiritual welfare, He will give health of body, keenness of mind, success in business, and unbroken prosperity. And, even if in this life our efforts should not realise our hopes, the teachings of the Holy Spirit are none the less a rich treasure for the ages to come. Deliver your heart, then, from the cares of this life and give close heed to my words. Of what avail will it be to you if you are here in the body, and your heart is anxious about your earthly treasure?
St Basil the Great, The Hexaemeron, III.1
Unlike some of his contemporary readers, St Basil doesn’t denigrate the creation of wealth.
While not losing focus on the priority of what he calls the “rich treasure” of the Holy Spirit for those ” who have preferred spiritual welfare,” St Basil is also aware of the economic sacrifice made by those listening to his sermons on the first chapter of Genesis.
Many of his listeners who crowd around the saint are “artisans, belonging to mechanical trades.” For them “day’s labor” hardly pays enough “to maintain them” and their families. This why the saint will keeps his remakes brief so that his listeners aren’t kept “too long from their work.”
At the same time, St Basil is firm in his conviction that God will reward their sacrifice :
The time which you lend to God is not lost: he will return it to you with large interest. Whatever difficulties may trouble you the Lord will disperse them. To those who have preferred spiritual welfare, He will give health of body, keenness of mind, success in business, and unbroken prosperity.
Far from dismissing the pursuit of profit as immoral, St Basil sees it as a good thing. In fact, it is a blessing from God. We misread the saint if we “spiritualize” his words here. The blessings he sees God offering to those who prefer “spiritual welfare” are distinctly and undeniably material.
While God isn’t obligated to bless us materially, and sometimes He doesn’t, material blessings are really signs of divine mercy. Secondary signs to be sure but still expressions of His love.