Well, the Ol’ Curmudgeon has ranted about the economy. I’ll agree that we are in a hard place. But what have the Bible and the Church Fathers said about economic problems?
First, there was Job – he was a rich guy with lots of land, crops, a lovely wife and lots of children. The Evil One saw him and began to torment him – first he lost his crops, then his land, then his wife and some of his children, finally, he was afflicted with sores all over his body. His response to all this was basically: “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!” He maintained his faith through it all, and in the end God blessed him richly once more.
Christ said: “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (Matthew 6:28, 30]
St. John Chrysostom said, in his Second Homily on Eutropius:
wealth is a wild beast: if it be tightly held it runs away: if it be let loose it remains where it is; “For,” it is said, “he hath dispersed abroad and given to the poor; his righteousness remaineth forever.” Ps. cxii. 9. Disperse it then that it may remain with thee; bury it not lest it run away. Where is wealth? I would gladly enquire of those who have departed.
St. John in this homily does not speak of wrenching the wealth of the rich away from them and dispersing it to the poor. He speaks of the ways wealth can hurt the wealthy. He urges them to distribute their wealth to the poor voluntarily.
The Shepherd (Pastor) of Hermas, Book First, Vision Third, Chapter VI asks of a vision of a Lady who had revealed herself as the Church about certain building stones:
“But who are these, Lady, that are white and round, and yet do not fit into the building of the tower?” She answered and said, “How long will you be foolish and stupid, and continue to put every kind of question and understand nothing? These are those who have faith indeed, but they have also the riches of this world. When, therefore, tribulation comes, on account of their riches and business they deny the Lord.” [Matt. xiii. 21.] I answered and said to her, “When, then, will they be useful for the building, Lady?” “When the riches that now seduce them have been circumscribed, then will they be of use to God. For as a round stone cannot become square unless portions be cut off and cast away, so also those who are rich in this world cannot be useful to the Lord unless their riches be cut down. Learn this first from your own case. When you were rich, you were useless; but now you are useful and fit for life. Be ye useful to God; for you also will be used as one of these stones.”
Again we see that from the earliest time in the Church, wealth was seen as a strong deterrent to Holiness and Godliness. Those with wealth were urged to share it.
Phileas, a resident of Thmuis, was of noble family, and no small wealth. He became a bishop, and composed a finely written work in praise of martyrs and arguing against the judge who tried to compel him to offer sacrifices, was beheaded for Christ during the same persecution in which Lucianus was put to death at Nicomedia. [Christian Classics Ethereal Library] While it was, and is, unusual for a bishop to be wealthy, we see from this that wealth itself is not “bad,” but rather the greed and avarice that frequently accompanies it.
Many other of the Church Fathers wrote about wealth and riches. Wealth is noted to be at the root of the evil deeds of many men and women, but the Fathers of the Church are careful to note that wealth itself is not the problem – it is the avarice and greed of the wealthy that lead to problems. People allow avarice and greed to interfere with their charity toward those who are in need.
As the Ol’ Curmudgeon rants on, we must remember that we should cherish the opportunities that come to us to help others, not wait for our taxes to be levied and monies dispersed by the state.