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One day, Jesus being in Solomon's porch, there drew nigh to him a scribe, one of them that made discourse to the people, and said to him: 'O master, I have many times made discourse to this people, and there is in my mind a passage of scripture which I am not able to understand.'
Jesus answered: 'And what is it?'
Said the scribe: 'That which God said to Abraham our father, "I will be thy great reward." Now how could man merit [such reward]?'
Then Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said: 'Assuredly thou art not far from the kingdom of God! Listen to me, for I will tell thee the meaning of such teaching. God being infinite, and man finite, man cannot merit God—and is this thy doubt, brother?'
The scribe answered, weeping: 'Lord, thou knowest my heart; speak, therefore, for my soul desireth to hear thy voice.'
Then said Jesus: 'As God liveth, man cannot merit a little breath which he receiveth every moment.'
The scribe was beside himself, hearing this, and the disciples likewise marvelled, because they remembered that which Jesus said, that whatsoever they gave for love of God, they should receive an hundredfold.
Then he said: 'If one should lend you an hundred pieces of gold, and ye should spend those pieces, could ye say to that man: "I give thee a decayed vine-leaf; give me therefore thine house, for I merit it"?'
The scribe answered: 'Nay, Lord, for he ought first to pay that which he owed, and then if he wished for anything, he should give him good things, but what booteth a corrupted leaf?'