Preferring Possessions

64. I have heard certain pious men declare that, when people rob us of what we possess for our own support or for the relief of the poor, we should prosecute them, especially if the culprits are Christians; for, it is argued, not to prosecute might encourage crime in those who have wronged us. But this is simply a specious excuse for preferring one’s possessions to one’s self.
For if I abandon prayer and cease to guard the door of my heart, and begin to bring cases against those who wrong me, frequenting the corridors of the courts, it is clear that I regard the goods which I claim as more important than my own salvation – more important even than the commandment of Christ. For how can I possibly follow the injunction: ‘When someone takes away your goods, do not try to recover them’ (Luke 6:30), unless I gladly endure their loss? Even if we do go to court and recover all we claim, we do not thereby free the criminal from his sin.
Human tribunals cannot circumscribe the eternal justice of God, and the accused is punished only according to those laws under which his case is heard. It is therefore better to endure the lawlessness of those who wish to wrong us, and to pray for them, so that they may be released from their guilt through repentance, rather than through restoring what they have taken. Divine justice requires that we receive back not the objects of theft, but the thief himself, freed through repentance from sin.
St Diadochos of Photiki On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination, Philokalia V1.274

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