Tikhon of Amathus, Bishop, Generous, Did Much With Little

Tikhon of Amathus, Bishop, Generous, Did Much With Little

Tikhon was born in the city of Amathus on the island of Cyprus. He was born into a Christian family and was brought up in the faith of his parents.They taught him to read at a young age and they did so by teaching him to read the scriptures so near and dear to their hearts. That way, at least, if he didn’t learn to read well and benefit from the rare skill, then he would at least hear the life changing stories contained therein. He had the opportunity to receive education–a relative luxury at the time–because his father owned and operated a fairly successful family business: a bakery. Growing up in a family with a business meant that Tikhon received regular opportunities to help the family prosper economically. When his father needed to leave the shop, Tikhon would mind the wares and make the sales necessary. As he got older, Tikhon was able to begin baking while running the shop in his father’s occasional absence. Eventually, as is the way of family businesses, Tikhon was essentially a coworker with his father when he was not busy with some other more pressing matter.

So, it was no surprise when Tikhon was left in charge of the bakery once again but it was surprising to his father what he did when hungry people came begging. Tikhon took a loaf of bread, broke it, and gave it into the hands of the hungry people on the doorstep. He invited them in for a little while so that they might find some momentary shelter and eat in peace. He broke another expensive loaf of bread and began baking yet more for them. He did it all, of course, because he felt that the faith he had learned at the knee of his mother and father commanded him to do so. When he was presented with the opportunity to do what Jesus had taught Tikhon didn’t know that most would avoid this command and, instead, followed the words of Jesus. Specifically, he gave food to the hungry because Jesus had said that those who feed the hungry are, in actuality, feeding God. So, he treated those hungry people in the shop with the love and attention that he desired to lavish upon God in the flesh. In a very real way, he was able to draw closely into the presence of God by handing over hot bread into the hands of one unable ever to pay for a slice–let alone a whole loaf. Then, Tikhon’s father came home just as Tikhon was handing over yet another expensive loaf–it seems that generosity truly is an addiction–and saw what was happening to the valuable bread meant to be sold to support the family.

He rushed Tikhon’s beloved guests out of the shop and asked Tikhon what he thought he was doing. He began to lecture Tikhon about the need of the family to support itself and how giving away bread robbed his own family. He mentioned that the granary where they kept the wheat was nearly empty because he had made bread in anticipation for some festival or feast. Now, that bread was in the stomachs of the hungry. He assented that it was good to feed the hungry as Jesus had commanded but not to do so so radically and lavishly. After all, wouldn’t the crusts be enough for the hungry? Tikhon, however, with honest and sincere faith asked his father if he had forgotten what God had promised. “I wasn’t feeding the hungry. I was feeding God. Didn’t God tell us that we would receive again one-hundred-fold for what we have given away in love?” His father agreed that this was the command but refused to accept such naive idealism–having been thoroughly indoctrinated by the world’s gospel. So, Tikhon led his father to the granary where, miraculously, it was filled to overflowing with wheat. At the sight of such a promise miraculously fulfilled, Tikhon’s father repented and insisted that they must continue to bake and break bread for the poor and the hungry–and so they did for many years even after Tikhon’s path led him away from Amathus and elsewhere into God’s service.

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Read more from Joshua Hearne at his personal website and the website of Grace and Main Fellowship, the non-traditional community he ministers with.

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