THE USE OF
Is wealth meant
to drape yourself in expensive clothing when a long tunic and a cloak are
all you need? What need is there for gourmet food when one loaf is enough
to fill the stomach? So why do you run after wealth? Is it the glory that
comes from it? But isn’t true glory that which leads to the kingdom of God?
For most souls, it would be a lovely thing to be rich even if it
brought absolutely no benefits. But we all know that it is foolish to be
enthusiastic about useless things.
Listen, Christian soul. Wealth lasts longer if it is distributed
to the needy; if it is hoarded, it is lost. If you hold on to it, you will
lose it; if you distribute it, you will keep it. This might seem strange
but its true.
How will you explain it to the Divine Judge at the end? You hung
tapestries on your walls but will not clothe the naked. You decorated your
house with luxuries but spurn your crippled brother. You let your corn rot
in the fields but will not feed the hungry.
When you hear the words, “Sell what you possess and give to the
poor,” which gives you the route to external bliss, you go away sad. But if
you hear the words, “Give your money to luxurious women, to painters and
mosaic craftsmen,” you are delighted.
Look at all the luxurious and architectural marvels around you.
They were built while the poor were being neglected because of the
commitment given to their building by the rich.
Walls and roof of any height or make serve the same purpose. One
who over-decorates his walls and roof usually owns nothing more precious
than what can be seen and, therefore, lavishes his attention on such
soulless things while his soul remains unadorned and neglected.
Why should your spoons be of silver and couches of ivory while the
poor by the thousand stand around your door, pleading with piteous voices.
What are gold, silver, topaz, beryl, agate, and sapphire, jasper
and amethyst and all other gems? Are they not mere stones? Can they add one
day to your life or can they spare you from death? Can they protect you
from illness? Aren't they more the cause of war for which swords are
sharpened and weapons forged? Are they not the cause why members of
the same family plot and murder one another? Wealth is what makes our
cities breeding places of murderers, pirates, kidnappers and perjurers, the
author of which is the devil.
We don't really need
money to live on. Money is, in fact, the root of all evil. It does not
really keep us alive; it leads us to destruction. It is the reason for
greed. "If you would be perfect, go sell what you possess and give to
the poor." (Matt. 19:21)
St. Basil the Great, Homily 7, Against the Rich