The Golden Sayings of Epictetus, XI and XII


The other day I had an iron lamp placed beside my household gods. I heard a noise at the door and on hastening down found my lamp carried off. I reflected that the culprit was in no very strange case. "Tomorrow, my friend," I said, "you will find an earthenware lamp; for a man can only lose what he has."


The reason why I lost my lamp was that the thief was superior to me in vigilance. He paid however this price for the lamp, that in exchange for it he consented to become a thief: in exchange for it, to become faithless.


19 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a molten image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. Ps. 106

The two proverbs of Epictetus seem to be speaking of a kind of manifest punishment or a judgment. He knows that no evildoer will go unpunished in either two ways.

One: A worldly manifest punishment that gives him the title of faithless or thief. For this man he has no faith in anything but in himself which quite honestly is the last person you would want to put your faith in; for can we as mortals deliver ourselves from disaster one hundred percent of the time. No. But the thief regards his acquiring a lamp, through robbing, worth sacrificing his good repute.

Two: This is his judgment he receives from God. In the first proverb Epictetus uses the phrase household gods and how he had his lamp placed beside them as though it belonged there. This thief wanted this household god (lamp) and regarded it more valuable than the actual God. This directly relates to Psalm 106. The thief made and exchange that was clearly a bad decision. It would be like trading a billion dollars for an 1886 penny. But he was so consumed by his desires that to him it was worth the trade.

You have to ask yourself, "Is the sin worth it if I will falling from the grace of God?" But this statement has the most weight if you have a correct idea of the sublime vision of God. For he is a consuming fire.

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