Amount of Wealth and Obligation to Give

Salvete, omnes!

Jesus often speaks of giving to the poor as something virtuous for the Christian. He also informs us how much wealth can not only very easily lead to a non-believer’s destruction but can also apparently trip us up in our Faith.

With all this in mind, a few questions:

  1. How much wealth is too much wealth? Is there even a limit? If there is some sort of “limit” regarding wealth, might that “limit” regard its usage rather than its amount? If this is the case, how much (if any) are we permitted to use solely for our own enjoyment (with thanksgiving to God, of course)?

  2. Related to all these, how much of our wealth are we obligated to give? All? Most? Some? A percentage? None (at least as far as “obligation” proper is concerned)? If we are obligated in some way, is the required amount proportional to the amount of our wealth?

  3. On a related not, as fr as giving: Must giving be done cheerfully in order to be accepted by God? If it is not, is it really not worth doing? Indeed, I recall reading in one of Paul’s epistles, if I’m not mistaken, that giving may have been understood by him as a “gift” in itself. What does this mean for the Christian and his/her “obligation” (ifthat’s the proper word) to give? Is it perhaps a kind of calling or vocation particular to the individual? If so, in what way?

  4. I’ve always understood wealth, no matter in what amount, to be something pleasant and a gift from God. After all, there are many Old Testament figures who are said to have had great wealth, even, as I recall, in gold and silver (surely not “necessities” by any stretch of the imagination and which could possibly even be considered “luxury” items). Does the Church still have the kind of aversion to any so-called “luxury” that appeared to be demonstrated in many writings of the early Fathers? Is such an aversion seen to be present in any of the inspired Writings?

(BTW, I’m primarily interested in the answers to 1 and 2, though the issues that I address in 3 and 4 have also been of interest/concern to me for some time.)

As I understand it, Catholic theologians have indeed debated this for many centuries, so I’m not sure if the Church now has (or ever had) an “official” (infallible?) position regarding any of this. If it does, might someone please inform me as to it? If there is no “official ruling” in some or all of this, I would certainly appreciate your well-reasoned/supported thoughts.

Thanks in advance, and do forgive any Protestant ignorance I show in any of the above. I’m still learning…

I think one’s attitude toward wealth is a major factor.

Christ gave us the two greatest Commandments: Love God and love others for the love of God.

How do we love others? By taking pride in our wealth? Hording for our own personal use? Do we love wealth more than God? More than others?

Money is a tool. How we use it matters.

We are called to perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Do we use our wealth in these endeavors?

The wealthy can afford expensive goods and services. These provide jobs and dignity for those supplying the goods and services. Many wealthy own businesses that also provide jobs and dignity. Many wealthy have their money in the bank or investments which also allow others to develop businesses, good, and services which provide jobs and dignity. Many wealthy contribute significant sums to charities. Some it publically known and much it not known.

Still, we, the wealthy too, can be detached from personal caring for those who struggle to keep it together. Is our heart into caring for the needy? Or is it done out of sense of duty? Is it done so we can be seen and honored? Or is it done because we truly care?

The answer to your questions go to how well one’s conscience is developed. If one is intent in loving God and others as best he can, then he will make prudential judgments as to how to relate and use his wealth.

It is impossible for us to know the heart of those who give and do not give publically. But God knows their heart.

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