20
Oct
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wealth and belongings

Augustine of Hippo

“That bread which you keep belongs to the hungry; that coat which you preserve in your wardrobe, to the naked; those shoes which are rotting in your possessions, to the shoeless; that gold which you have hidden in the ground, to the needy. Wherefore, as often as you are able to help others, and refuse, so often did you do them wrong.”
-Augustine

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1 Response to “wealth and belongings”


  1. 1 Karen
    October 22, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Here’s a few more quotes in this vein that I gleaned from another blogger’s site. Interesting that the quote you found attributed to St. Augustine is in this series attributed to St. Basil, the Great. I think St. Basil is earlier, so Augustine might have been quoting him (or both were quoting some earlier source perhaps).

    When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.

    – St Gregory the Great

    All things belong to God, who is our Father and the Father of all things. We are all of the same family; all of us are brothers. Amongst brothers, it is best that all inherit equal portions.

    – St Gregory of Nyssa

    Share everything with your brother. Do not say, “It is private property”. If you share what is everlasting, you should be willing to share even more the things that do not last.

    – Didache

    Give a loaf of bread yourself; someone else can give a cup of wine, and another clothes. In this way, you can relieve one man’s poverty by your joint effort.

    – St Gregory of Nyssa

    The rich take what belongs to everyone, and claim that they have the right to own it, to monopolise it.

    – St Basil the Great

    I am often criticised for my continual attacks on the rich. Yes, that’s because the rich continually attack the poor.

    – St John Chrysostom

    It isn’t because the affluent are unable to provide food easily that men go hungry; it is because the affluent are cruel and inhuman. Every day, the Church here feeds 3,000 people. Besides this, the Church daily helps provide food and clothes for prisoners, the hospitalised, pilgrims, cripples, churchmen, and others. If only ten people were willing to do this, there wouldn’t be a single poor man left in town.

    – St John Chrysostom

    Those who oppress the poor must know that their sentence is heavier because of those they try to hurt. The more they press their power over these wretched lives, the more terrible their future condemnation and punishment will be.

    – St Isidore

    Some think that the Old Testament is stricter than the New, but they judge wrongly; they are fooling themselves. The Old Law did not punish the desire to hold on to wealth; it punished theft. Now, the rich man is not condemned for taking the property of others; rather, he is condemned for not giving his property away.

    – St Gregory the Great

    You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not just to the rich.

    – St Ambrose

    What keeps you from giving now? Isn’t the poor man there? Aren’t your own warehouses full? Isn’t the reward promised? The command is clear, the hungry man is dying now, the naked man is freezing now, the man in debt is beaten now, and you want him to wait until tomorrow? “I am not doing any harm”, you say. “I just want to keep what I own, that’s all”. Your own! You are like someone who sits down in a theatre and keeps every one else away, saying what is there for everyone’s use is his own. If everyone took only what he needed and gave the rest to those in need, there would be no such things as rich and poor. After all, didn’t you come into this life naked? Won’t you return to the earth naked?

    – St Basil the Great

    Who is the greedy man? One for whom plenty does not suffice. Who defrauds others? One who keeps for himself what belongs to everyone. Aren’t you greedy, don’t you defraud, when you keep for yourself what was given to give away? When someone steals a man’s clothes, we call him a thief. Shouldn’t we give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not?

    – St Basil the Great

    The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry person; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the person who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the person with no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help.

    – St Basil the Great

    You may say, “Words are alright; but gold is better”. Talking to you is like talking to a lustful man about chastity… when one says something against him keeping a mistress, the mention of her name only goes to heat up his lust. How can I make you realise the misery of the poor? How can I make you understand that your wealth comes from their weeping?

    – St Basil the Great

    The rich eat bread that belongs to others more than it does to them. They live on stolen goods. What they pay comes from what they have seized. You dig up gold from the mines, only to bury it again. How many lives did you bury with it? This wealth is kept for whom? For your heir, who waits idly to receive it. It is not the poor who are cursed, but the rich. Scripture says of the rich, not of the poor, that the man who increases the price of corn will be cursed. Who is the wise man? He is the one who shows compassion on the poor, who sees the poor as natural members of his family.

    – St Ambrose

    The poor mine gold, but they are not allowed to keep it; they are forced to work for what they cannot own.

    – St Ambrose

    Wealth, which lead the men the wrong way so often, is seen less for its own qualities than for the human misery it stands for. The large rooms of which you are so proud are in fact your shame. They are big enough to hold crowds… and big enough to shut out the voice of the poor. True, even if the voice were heard it would be ignored… the poor man cries before your house, and you pay no attention. There is your brother naked and crying! Whilst you stand confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering.

    – St Ambrose

    Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead.

    – St John Chrysostom

    Every family should have a room where Christ is welcome in the person of the hungry and thirsty stranger.

    – St John Chrysostom


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