Is It True That It Is Not a Sin to Deceive People Whose Faith Is Different from Ours?

A Jew at Prayer by Ilya Repin

(The story of a Christian who took gold from a Jew and swore to him that he hadn’t).

Whatever faith a person may be, love him and do not offend him; otherwise your Lord will expose your wickedness, and you will have sin on you.

A Christian and a Jewish merchant lived close to each other in the city of Alexandria and were great friends. One day the Jew, going on a long journey for business purposes, left the Christian a casket with gold for safekeeping. Quite a while later, the Jew returned home and, first of all, sent gifts to the Christian as a thank you for keeping the gold. The Christian accepted the gifts but said in his heart, “I will take your gifts, but I will not give you your gold back.” He consulted with his wife, and they both decided to swear that they had not taken the gold of the Jew; for if they had robbed a Christian, then it would have been another thing: they thought that they would not be accountable to God for the Jew. So, when the Jew came to the Christian in the morning and demanded his gold, the Christian said with an oath that he had not taken gold from him. They were arguing for a long time, and the Jew finally said, “I have heard, my friend, about the Holy Martyr Menas that he does great things and punishes those who swear unjustly; go to his church and swear to me there that you did not take gold from me.” There they went. The Jew again began to persuade the Christian and said to him, “Well, there is nothing to be done, take as much of my gold as you want, and give me the rest, but do not swear falsely.” The Christian said, “You are a Jew, so you are unworthy to enter the church.” The Jew replied, “If I am not worthy, I will stand outside of the church, but you will come in and swear so that I can see it.” Then he knelt down and exclaimed, “God, who helped me to get to this church of the Holy Martyr Menas, be the witness between me and the Christian at this hour.” Then he called out in a loud voice: “Saint Menas, judge me and the Christian!” The Christian, on the other hand, uttered his promised oath in the church, and after that both went back. On the way, the horse on which the Christian was riding was scared by something, threw off its rider, and the key to the casket, in which the Christian kept the Jew’s gold, fell out of his pocket. When the Christian rose back on his feet, he was looking for the key for a long time, but he could not find it, so he sat down again on the horse and rode, thinking, “The fact that I fell from the horse is the entire penalty for my false oath.” When he and the Jew, continuing their way, came to one place, they stopped and bought food and began to eat. The Jew said to himself, “Why do I believe in St. Menas, if, having heard a lot about his miracles, I have not seen a single one from him? It would be better if I did not lead a Christian into swearing, and he would probably give me back at least a little bit of my gold; however, I will lay my trust on God”. While they were sitting, suddenly there came a slave of the Christian with the casket full of the Jew’s gold in his hands. The Christian was horrified and said to the slave, “Where do you come from, and why did you bring the case here?” The slave replied, “I have been sent to you from your wife to do as you commanded her.” “What did I command her to do?” The slave said, “Today an unknown glorious warrior on a horse appeared to your wife and holding the key showed it to her and said, “Do you know this key?” She said, “I do.” The warrior said, “Take it, for your husband has sent me to tell you that you should quickly send to him the Jew’s casket of gold, for he is tormented in the church of the Saint.” “So,” the slave concluded, “I have done what you told me to do. If you do not believe me, then here is the key that the warrior gave to your wife.” Then the Jew took his gold and gladly exclaimed, “God is great and his holy martyr Menas is glorious! The Christian faith is wonderful! Whoever trusts in You, O Lord, and in Your help and the power of Your saints, will never be ashamed. I want to be a Christian, too.” Then he gave a third of the gold to St. Menas Church and was baptized with his whole household. The Christian gave half of his estate to the church of St. Menas, and remained in this church until the end of his life mourning his sins. He passed away in repentance, having received forgiveness of sins from the Holy Martyr Menas.

Therefore, brethren, do not imitate those heartless people who hate and offend followers of other faiths. On the contrary, show them graceful love and compassion that they may be converted to repentance and come to Christ. What did He do? Did he cast away Gentiles, tax collectors, and harlots? On the contrary, He taught them, pitied them, and pardoned them. Do the same. Otherwise, you should be afraid that the fate of the Pharisees befalls you. The Lord rebuked the Pharisees, and rejected many of them because they considered themselves to be the direct descendants of Abraham, and thought that they were the only ones who would be saved, and therefore despised and hated the Gentiles and others who they saw as sinners. Try to organize yourself so that your love may be all-encompassing and extend to those who are not of your faith. Amen.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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