Perfection and Feasibility
All of us are required to be perfect, as the
saying of the Glorious Lord Jesus Christ:
“You shall be perfect, just as your Father
in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48)
God is the only who has absolute perfection. As
for us, the best we can achieve is considered
relative perfection; relative to our capabilities and
God’s Grace given to us. What we are required to
achieve is the feasible, what we can achieve.
When a child starts to learn Mathematics, they
first teach him addition and subtraction. He passes
his exam and gets the full mark. We say that he
has achieved perfection in Arithmetic according to
his level, though his level is considered nothing
compared to high levels in Arithmetic, but still he
achieved relative perfection.
While discussing relative perfection, I would like
to recall the saying of St. Paul the Apostle:
“If it is possible, as much as depends on
you, live peaceably with all men." (Ro. 12:18)
The Apostle does not ask for absolute perfection
but for what is feasible as he says: “as much as
depends on you”…
We are supposed to live in peace with all
people. But sometimes a wife can’t live in peace
with her mother-in-law if they were living at the
same house. So instead of them having a fight
daily, they better separate: each of them should
live in a house. As Abram said to his nephew Lot:
“Please let there be no strife between you and me,
and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; ...
Please separate from me. If you take the left, then
I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then
I will go to the left.” (Gn. 13:8, 9).
Therefore, our Lord Jesus Christ was blaming
Scribes and Pharisees when saying:
“They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear,
and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they
themselves will not move them with one of
their fingers.” (Mt. 23:4).
And for they have asked people for the
impossible, the Lord told them: “You shut up the
kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go
in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are
entering to go in.” (Mt. 23:13).
This obliges all spiritual mentors, speakers and
all teachers not to ask people for more than they
can bear, in the area of the commandments and
teachings. We would like to say the same to fathers
and mothers and all those who work in the field of
Ask them for what is feasible for them; what
they can do…
The Lord once said to his apostles: “I still have
many things to say to you, but you cannot bear
them now.” (Jn. 16:12)
And in temptations St. Paul the Apostle says:
“God is faithful, who will not allow you to be
tempted beyond what you are able, but with the
temptation will also make the way of escape, that
you may be able to bear it.” (1Co. 10:13).
In the Parable of the Talents he gave “to each
according to his own ability” (Mt. 25:15)…
He was not distinguishing when he gave one five
talents, the second two and the third one. But he was
giving “each one according to his own ability”. In the
gain he did so too. The one who was given two talents
gain the same blessing that was given to the one with
the five talents; “Well done, good and faithful servant;
you were faithful over a few things, I will make ruler
over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Mt.
25:21, 23). If the one with the single talent had traded
and gained another talent, he would have gained the
God then repays everyone according to his or her
And the same blessing will be given to everyone if
they come with outcomes according to their capabilities.
We see the same situation again in the Parable
of the Sower (Mt. 13: 3-9-23).
The Lord said that: that who sowed on good ground
“yielded a crop: some a hundred-fold, some sixty, some
thirty.”. Everyone was considered to have yielded a
crop even the one who only yielded thirty! Each of the
three according to his potential reached the possible
perfection, according to the ground’s nature, the
fertilizer and irrigation, the seed nature and the sower
As God repays people he definitely takes into
consideration the differences in their levels and
Each has a certain level. And strives according to
We read a nice phrase by St Isaac the Syrian:
“Because God knows the diversity in people’s
characters, he created so many ways for salvation. So
that if someone could not follow a certain, can follow
St Isaac the Syrian was a monk representing very
strict solitude. And yet he did not ask everyone to reach
the same level of solitude that he lived and taught
through. He gave standards: “the monk living among
monks, the novice solitary monk, the one who can lock
up himself for weeks, then the hermit… On steps…”.
Not every monk can live in a cave, and not every cave
inhabitant can live a hermitic life. But each according to
his potential. And there are good monks living in the
monks’ community like St. Tudor the student of St
Bachomious the Great…
All these reach the possible perfection level…
There are also those who do not follow
monasticism; they get married and get children
and they reach the relative and possible
This is how our great fathers: Noah, Job, Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob. Among the prophets there was
Moses who was married and Elijah the virgin. Among
the apostles there was Peter the married and John
Among those who were famous for their kindness
to the poor: There was Bishop Abram the bishop of
Fayoum city and Ibrahim El-Gohary the holder of a
Each, according to his potential, circumstances and
mission, lived a possible perfect life. With good
spiritual life that can be accepted by God.
There is also that who gets married then his wife
dies, so he gets widowed, then gets married again
(after his wife dies) and his life gets accepted by the
Lord and sometimes reach the relative perfection.
There are many examples among prophets like
Abraham the Father of fathers (Gn. 25:1).
God looks to the capabilities of each person
and not to those of other people. People vary in
their levels even the spiritual ones:
There is the novice person, the one who is not
experienced and mature, and both are different than
the spiritual person with has gifts given to him by the
People also differ from the age point of view: what
a Youngman can do is different than what an old man
can do, which is also different than what a child can
Also the capabilities of a sick person, is different
than those of a strong healthy one.
And a person who received a special grace from
the Lord is different from an ordinary person.
And possible perfection for each type of all these
people differs from one to another “each according to
his own ability.” (Mt. 25:15).
Furthermore, the level of the commandments
in the Old Testament is different than in the
New Testament… According to people’s abilities
The Lord is the same and his measures of
perfection are the same…
But the level of people living in an pagan
atmosphere where people worship so many Gods is
different than the atmosphere of the New Testament
where paganism has vanished and the New
Testament age had the prevailing of the act of grace,
and the Holy Spirit dwelling in People (1Co. 3:16)
guiding them to what is righteous and aiding them…
This is an age different than that at which Moses
was delayed coming down from the mountain
because he was with the Lord, so they fashioned a
golden molded calf and worshipped it!! (Ex. 32:2-6)
So the level of the commandments given to people
in the Old Testament was according to their
potentials… So it was said that Moses allowed them to
divorce because of the hardness of their hearts (Mt.
19:8) although that “at the beginning it was not like
And Prophet David has married eight wives. And
yet it was said about him that his heart was loyal to
the Lord (1K. 11:4). This is possible relative
All these matters that were allowed in the Old
Testament became forbidden in the New Testament
because the all the conditions changed, under grace
possibilities and the end of the pagan atmosphere
that affected even Solomon the wise (1K. 11:3, 4).
Now let’s talk about some virtues. Let’s see
perfection in then and what is possible taking
into consideration differences in levels:
Absolute perfection in giving can only be achieved
But what is the relative perfection that a person
can achieve? And what are its levels?
Relative perfection can be found in the Lord’s
saying: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you
have and give the poor, and you will have treasure in
heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Mt. 19:21).
St. Anthony achieved this commandment to its
perfection in his perfection.
Not everyone can do like St Anthony did.
So no one may say: “I am totally lost because I
did not do this commandment”!!
No, God only asks you for the possible, which has
levels as well.
You give what you can. Give out of your musts
like the poor widow, who paid the two mites, did; she
was praised from the Lord for that. (Lk. 21:3, 4).
If you can’t give out from your necessities, then
act according to another commandment, which is:
“Give to him who asks you” (Mt. 5:42). Or do as was
said in the Old Testament: “Do not withhold good
from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power
of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor,
“Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it,”
When you have it with you.” (Pr. 3:27, 28)
Notice the sentence “When it is in the power of
your hand to do so” meaning the (possible). Also the
part “When you have it with you” is the same. If you
could not do all this:
At lease pay your firstlings and your tithes and
this is an Old Testament commandment.
At least also pray for those needy, and try to
redirect them to charity institutions that take care of
them. Doing so you would be giving them indirectly.
But if you do not do this or that, meaning: you go for
neither the relative perfection, the possible, nor the
indirect giving, then your conscience is neglectful.
Perfection in prayer is to always pray and not lose
heart (Lk. 18:1).
If you could not achieve this perfection, then go
for the possible, which is the seven daily prayers
If this is more than you can do, at least start your
day with a prayer and end it with a prayer before you
sleep, you can also raise your heart with a fast short
prayer all the time, even if it is only made out of one
or two words… Asking God for blessing, help, or
forgiveness, or expressing your feelings towards the
Pray as much as you can. If you cannot reach the
perfect, then do not ignore the possible.
Fasting is an abstaining from food, followed by
eating food that is free from animal fats. Perfection in
fasting is measured by the duration of abstaining
from desirables, as Prophet Daniel said: “I ate no
pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth,
nor did anoint myself at all” (Dn. 10:3)
Yet, if you cannot do that, the church – as of the
possible – gave permissions – in the reasonable
boundaries – to the sick, old, pregnant women,
breastfeeding mothers and children. But these
permissions should not be taken a reason for
exaggerating in abandoning fasting if the health of
one is ok.
Once, St Pishoi fasted around 20 days with hard
abstaining. Then he looked out of his room and saw a
young novice monk who had abstained from food for
one day and he cannot walk straight. He asked God
about the reward of that poor youngster and he was
told: “He gets exactly the same reward as you.
Because if he was given the grace that was given to
you, he would have fasted the same way you do”
So the amount of grace a person gets from
God is taken into consideration while measuring
the possible perfection that can be reached.
Perfection in service is that a servant reaches the
life of full dedication, so that his whole life is fully
dedicated to God. Not every person can reach the
level of full dedication. The family and social
circumstances of each person differ than others, and
have to get an extra job to be able to support his
So what is the (possible) then?
It is to use his free time to serve God. If one
cannot, then at least one hour a day. If he cannot,
then at least whenever God puts someone who needs
serving on his way, he gives him as much as he can.
And to be ready in his heart to serve each as much
as he can.
Dealing with hurtful people
Perfection in that is what is described by the Lord’s
saying: “love your enemies, bless those who curse
you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for
those who spitefully use you and prosecute you” (Mt.
5:44). If you cannot do that, then what is the
It is what is said in the bible: “If your enemy is
hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his
head.” (Ro. 12:20). Meaning that by you doing so, he
will be embarrassed from you and your charity will
If you could not turn your other cheek to the one
who slaps you (according to the Lord’s
commandment) (Mt. 5:39), then at least bear the
first slap, don’t get even and slap back. And pray that
God forgives him and keep his evilness away from
The last word I would like to say to you in the
If you go for (the possible), and not for
perfection, do not turn (the possible) into
Do not neglect the commandment, and cover up
that neglect with excuses and by saying that it was
more than you could have done. No, let your
conscience be righteous in front of God and in front of
yourself honestly and with careful inspection. So that
you do not be spoiling yourself in running away from
the commandment and loosening up.
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