The Early Church on Poverty & Wealth

“Their property held them in chains . . . chains which shackled their courage and choked their faith and hampered their judgment and throttled their souls. They think of themselves as owners, whereas it is they rather who are owned: enslaved as they are to their own property, they are not the masters of their money but its slaves.” – Cyprian, 300 A.D.

“The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has no shoes; the money which you put into the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help but fail to help.” – Basil of Caesarea, 330-370 A.D.

“You are not making a gift of your possession to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his.” – Ambrose of Milan, 340-397 A.D.

“Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours but theirs.” – John Chrysostom, 347-407 AD

“And instead of the tithes which the law commanded, the Lord said to divide everything we have with the poor. And he said to love not only our neighbors but also our enemies, and to be givers and sharers not only with the good but also to be liberal givers toward those who take away our possessions.” – Irenaeus, 130-200 AD

“Share everything with your brother. Do not say, ‘It is private property.’ If you share what is everlasting, you should be that much more willing to share things which do not last.” – The Didache

“Let the strong take care of the weak; let the weak respect the strong. Let the rich man minister to the poor man; let the poor man give thanks to God that he gave him one through whom his need might be satisfied.” – Clement of Rome, 1st Century

“We who share one mind and soul obviously have no misgivings about community in property.” – Tertullian, 160-225 A.D.

“They [Christians] love one another. They do not overlook the widow, and they save the orphan. He who has ministers ungrudgingly to him who does not have. When they see strangers, they take him under their own roof and rejoice over him as a true brother, for they do not call themselves brothers according to the flesh but according to the soul.” – Aristides, early 2nd century

“How can I make you realize the misery of the poor? How can I make you understand that your wealth comes from their weeping?” – Basil of Caesarea, 330-370 A.D.

“The rich are in possession of the goods of the poor, even if they have acquired them honestly or inherited them legally.” – John Chrysostom, 347-407 AD

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12 Responses to “The Early Church on Poverty & Wealth”

  1. Trekant Says:

    Ouch! What a challenge.

    Good reminders- all.

  2. Sean Friend Says:

    Another quote from Chrysostom:
    When you are weary of praying and do not receive, consider how often you have heard a poor man calling, and have not listened to him.

  3. Matt Says:

    This is a great post. Thanks so so much. Where did you get all of these quotes. I am a Prof at a Graduate school I teach Community Development. My classes are all about poverty and Theology. Could you send me your sources so I can find more similar quotes.

  4. Keith Says:

    This is great.

  5. Dauda Gava Says:

    I like this work

  6. A Lee Goodman Says:

    I’m glad I stumbled upon this post; it’s a great one and I’d like to link to it. You might find a recent series of posts (“One thing you lack”) on my blog interesting. Or not. But you’re welcome to come and visit. 🙂
    thanks again,
    A Lee

  7. Micael Says:

    Thank you fo this post. I took some of your qoutes and added some more that I already knew and made this:

  8. Christmas is around the corner so you know what that means: Let’s celebrate JESUS by plunging deeper in DEBT! | Faith in Action Says:

    […] convicted by the words of our Christian forebearers who spoke on poverty and wealth like Basil of Caesarea who said: “The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat […]

  9. Trish Says:

    Great post. This makes you take scope of your life.

  10. The common destination of all the goods of the earth: Early Writers’ perspective Says:

    […] to Rachel Stanton of the website: Dear […]

  11. joanspilman Says:

    Reblogged this on Joan Spilman Author.

  12. joanspilman Says:

    Wonderful weapon against the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Gospel that Americans are not only gobbling up, but spreading everywhere. Thank you.

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