Chrysostom on Forced Redistribution of Wealth

Taken from On Living Simply: The Golden Voice of John Chrysostom (Sermon 63): [INDENT]Should we look to kings and princes to put right the inequalities between rich and poor? Should we require soldiers to come and seize the rich person’s gold and distribute it among his destitute neighbors? Should we beg the emperor to impose a tax on the rich so great that it reduces them to the level of the poor and then to share the proceeds of that tax among everyone? Equality imposed by force would achieve nothing, and do much harm. Those who combined both cruel hearts and sharp minds would soon find ways of making themselves rich again. Worse still, the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold form the hands of soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would have prompted the gift. Far from bringing moral benefit to society, it would actually do moral harm. Material justice cannot be accomplished by compulsion, a change of heart will not follow. The only way to achieve true justice is to change people’s hearts first - and then they will joyfully share their wealth.[/INDENT]Cited by a number of online sources, including here, here, here, and here.

This is an extraordinary quote that really puts an interesting light on the idea of redistribution of wealth. This is not, of course, to try to say that Chrysostom was in favor of wealth accumulation or any such idea…not hardly. But this underscores a call for the conversion of the wealthy so that they do so voluntarily rather than taxation for the purpose of social engineering.

Your thoughts?

I love this!!! And he makes very clear the problem with the forced welfare as opposed to true charity.

Nice try. I’m not buying this. Jesus said give, we give. You shouldn’t care how. If you are wrapped up in the how so much, you’ve obviously lost track of the why.

Do you love this because it makes it ok to hoard your money?

The operative word is underlined. We (you and I) give. That does not mean the government takes.

If you are wrapped up in the how so much, you’ve obviously lost track of the why

Not so much. The reason you give is the same reason you receive. God imparts a blessing upon it. Matthew 25 makes that very, very clear.

Unfortunately, socialists, whom Leo XIII condemned, are too wrapped up into materialism to understand that concept.

Yes, Christians give because Christ commanded us to do so. But what about those who do not adhere to His commandments? Your comment seems to suggest that it is acceptable to TAKE from those people in order that the poor might benefit. Not only is Chrysostom correct in saying that this is not charity, it is actually UNcharitable to those from whom you would take.

Peace,
Dante

very much agree.

however they got their property it is legally their’s – assuming they broke no laws. a change of heart is the key. forcing is like stealing and serves no Christian purpose.

pray they have a change of heart and share like many great saints have done is preferred.

Regarding Chrysotom, I guess his views on Jews are also interesting. (Just pointing it out as interesting historical information, not necessarily an attack of his other positions)

Back the topic.

I posted this before and it has some relevance to Matthew 25:

Matthew 25 can also apply to a welfare state because essentially a welfare state serves those functions on a public instead of a private level. If one pays taxes to a welfare state, and does so cheerfully, one can regard them doing a loving, charitable act, but if one does it reluctantly and harbors resentment towards its recipients, then the act of financially supporting the welfare state would be devoid of any virtue.

I would prefer a welfare state to private charity, simply because the former is more effective. Personally, private charity gets me dejected because I am often too tough on myself; resentful that my meager charitable acts do not have much measurable impact on the world. I would gladly be relieved of my personal “responsibility” of providing for the poor domestically, since it is a source of frustration due to my personal inefficacy, while welcoming it as a collective burden. When living in an extensive welfare state, my moral responsibilities will not completely evaporate; I would still have the burden of not only financially supporting the state, but I also would have to fervently commit my intellect to relentless defending the system and treating my fellow citizens with respect, amity, and friendship while not being judgmental on the unfortunate. I must never castigate a fellow citizen who is suffering from misfortune for an alleged lack of “personal responsibility” nor harbor any prejudice about him/her being lazy from self-righteous condescending attitude, instead I would be expected to cheerfully extend an attitude of sympathy and benevolence along with financial support through the apparatus of the state, to him or her. But I would expect my fellow citizens to reciprocate the same attitude, with the assistance of a repressive culture and inculcation, towards me and other citizens, and share the same concern for their welfare too.

Supporting the welfare state can be virtuous since it is a respect for objective outcomes, measured by the welfare of the poor. Those who are net beneficiaries of the welfare state can still be virtuous, though, by being grateful for the prevailing macroeconomic system of the welfare state, and, most importantly, treating their fellow citizens with amity and respect. They might not be able to contribute financial to the welfare state nor have the intellect necessary to defend it as a political philosophy, but they can still contribute by promoting an ethos and public sentiment conducive to the welfare state.

Wow! It would seem that communism was condemned way before it made it’s debut in the world! Or maybe I am misunderstanding communism?

Ok, so you are stating there should be such a separation between church and state that one could extrapolate out that gay marriage and abortion are “ok” for non-Catholics because they are not held by the same standard as us.

Further, the taxes being used to help build schools, education school children, pay social security, medicare should all be done away with under your assessment. The government should take no taxes. Go to a 3rd world country and see how that works out for those people. We have the means as a great nation to care for our people. Some are being brainwashed that social services are not necessary (by the rich who will never need it). Plutonomy - that is essentially where we are headed anyway after the last 8 years of deregulation. The middle-class is now in poverty. If it hasn’t hit you or your family yet, give it time.

My, isn’t that a stretch.

Further, the taxes being used to help build schools, education school children, pay social security, medicare should all be done away with under your assessment.

I don’t seem to recall that in my assessment at all. But OK.

The government should take no taxes.

Hyperbole, anybody?

Go to a 3rd world country and see how that works out for those people.

I’ve actually lived in a third world country before and have visited several others.

You know what characterizes most of the problems there: materialism.

See, that materialism corrupts. As Our Lord said, “you cannot serve two masters.” If you think about it, that really applies to everybody, not just the well-to-do. Envy is a capital sin just as greed is.

Greed is what causes the wealthy to accumulate and sit on their wealth while not treating those in their employ with the respect they are due as humans. Envy, on the other hand, is what fuels violent revolutions. The cure for those sins are practice of the virtues (liberality in the case of greed, brotherly love in the case of envy).

The basic fact of the matter is that the practice of liberality cannot be coerced. Just as the fact that brotherly love cannot be coerced. They must come from within. And if they come from within, then there is no need for some massive federal bureaucratic infrastructure to enforce them.

We have the means as a great nation to care for our people.

And we used to have great families to do so, great neighborhoods to do so, and great communities to do so.

Some are being brainwashed that social services are not necessary (by the rich who will never need it). Plutonomy - that is essentially where we are headed anyway after the last 8 years of deregulation. The middle-class is now in poverty.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. Unfortunately, many of those who have been hit by this did not look to God as being their sufficiency during the good times and I would imagine they are not looking that way now, either.

Perhaps you should do a check on your own attitude, though. I don’t purport to read your mind, but, based solely upon your posts in this thread, it appears that you could really benefit from meditating on St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, chapter 3, verses 1 and 2 (verse 2 quoted above).

If it hasn’t hit you or your family yet, give it time.

Thank you for the well wishes.

The problem is that you have now made two posts but haven’t bothered to refute the words of St John. That is, after all, the topic of this thread, isn’t it? Perhaps you could address where this Church Father and Doctor of the Church is wrong in his assessment.

The fact of the matter is that, as St John said, there won’t be justice until there is a change in heart. It was true 1,600 years ago and it is true to this day. And if we are concerned with the immortal souls of all the people, we would do well to keep that in mind.

Well, first of all I am wondering how you got this “great” gift for reading the minds and hearts of others? Why is it that you assume to believe that those who don’t fall for the hype of the left of stealing from the rich to give to poor, are all money horders. Do you know any of us to claim that we do not give of our time, talents or money to other?

Also the part I highlighted in bold and red really stricks me as odd, in another thread you basiclly wished me and my family to fail just as you have done to this poster. Do you really hate to see some to succed so much that you can only wish them bad luck? Not very Christian if you ask me.

I find it alternately puzzling, amusing, and irritating how the default response to “I oppose socialism” is “Then you must oppose schools and police and fire departments!” Good grief.

Peace,
Dante

Please don’t follow me around. There is no reason for you to join this conversation unless you have legitimate debate information to add. If you continue to do so, I will again report you.

You shouldn’t be puzzled by that; it’s simple. Public schools were set up to support children whose parents could not afford education for them. In fact, children of means do not attend public school in most cases; therefore, public school is a socialist design under your summation. Just because it’s been around long enough for you to not know any better doesn’t make it any less a social service. Care to comment on social security & medicare? Or is your not including them a way to saying they should be done away with?

Oh please, don’t flatter yourself. You are really not that interesting. I am usually in this area and I might just turn this around on you. And I feel like I do have every right to be here. I think your reporting is making you look a little bit paranode, but please, I know I have done nothing wrong so go ahead. On the other don’t worry about me reporting you for being out right rude on a number of occassions, I have learned in life that it is better to laught at such things than whine.

But back OT, would you care to answer my questions of how you can assume to know what each of us gives to the less furtunate? Or how we are all horders when we oppose sociallism?

I would always take first from Christ. He was pretty easy to understand and made a lot of sense. If you must turn from Christ’s teaching to one of the Church Father’s, at least don’t take one quote out of context under the pretense that it’s ok to keep your tax money hoarded within your mattresses. St. John C. said a lot of things on “Wealth & Virtue”:

None of these things is good, not luxury, not wealth, not excessive clothing; they have only the name of goodness. Why do I say that they have only the name? They often indeed cause our destruction, when we use them improperly. Wealth will be good for the possessor if he does not spend it only on luxury, or on strong drink and harmful pleasures; if he enjoys luxury in moderation and distributes the rest to the stomachs of the poor, then wealth is a good thing. But if he is going to give himself up to luxury and other profligacy, not only does it not help him at all, but it even leads him down to the great pit. This is what happened to this rich man.12

But more importantly:
God says, “The earth has brought forth her increase, and you have not brought forth your tithes; but the theft of the poor is in your houses.” Since you have not given the accustomed offerings, He says, you have stolen from the poor. He says this to show the rich that they hold the goods of the poor even if they have inherited them from their fathers or no matter how they have gathered their wealth.20

st-philip.net/presentations/wealth_and_virtue.pdf

For every out of context quote you offer, common sense tells us, along with our Church, that social programs are valuable and warranted. Though the hoarders may want it another way, Christ teaches to give up everything, pick up your cross and follow Him. Don’t try to lead others astray with half-truths. As I said, understanding Christ is easy if you’re not looking for an “out.”

Regarding gay marriage and how that plays into this: If you state that the government shouldn’t get involved in your pocket books, they could similarly state, along that same rationale, the government should stay out of their relationships.

Again, you are the one posting to me. I’ll easily ignore you, but it’s not ok for you to come into an honest, mature discussion and start nonsense.

How am I starting nonsense? i am asking you a question, I am trying to understand why you think I or anyone else who don’t fall in step with socialism are hoarders. What have I done on this board, since I am pretty sure you have absolutly no idea of who I am off this board, to give you the idea that I am a greedy hoarder? Please just answer this question.

There is one minor problem. I didn’t quote Wealth and VIrtue. I quoted from On Living Simply. Two different documents altogether. And not once in that study of Wealth and Virtue did St John or the author of that study, Dr Fitzgerald, advocate forcible government expropriation of property.

In fact, to the contrary, St John stated, Wealth will be good for the possessor if he does not spend it only on luxury, or on strong drink and harmful pleasures; if he enjoys luxury in moderation and [the wealthy man] distributes the rest to the stomachs of the poor, then wealth is a good thing. [as opposed to the government stealing it from him]

And this is precisely what I stated in my original post on the thread:[INDENT]**But this underscores a call for the conversion of the wealthy so that they do so voluntarily rather than taxation for the purpose of social engineering.
**[/INDENT]And this is also exactly the point that Jesus, Himself, made in Luke 16 and Matthew 25.

You indicated in your post, “I would always take first from Christ.” OK, fine. Could you please show me where the Lord Jesus directed that the Roman government was to take from those who had means and distribute it to those who didn’t have means? (The Roman government was the ruling government at that time, much akin to our US Federal government today). I don’t claim to be the world’s foremost Scripture scholar, so it might be there. I just haven’t ever read that anywhere in the Gospels.

See, if you can get past the irrational prejudice that is being displayed in your posting on this thread (I am not accusing you of being prejudiced, I don’t know what is in your heart…only in what I am reading), you will find that you and I are likely after the same goal: the salvation of the souls of both the rich and the poor. The salvation of souls is what is really important isn’t it?

I full well know that the rich lust after their riches (a/k/a greed) and that the poor envy that which they don’t have. Both of those sins can lead to the destruction of the souls of those involved.

I perceive that you see injustice going on and that outrages you. And it should disturb anybody.

But the fact of the matter remains that what St John wrote was 100% true. Without a change in heart, the rich will just figure out another mechanism by which to accumulate wealth. Meanwhile, the poor will only materially benefit for a short time.

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