St. John Chrysostom's Obsession with the Poor

St. John Chrysostom's Obsession with the Poor: Part I
by pragerfan

September 28, 2007

An excerpt from an article by Bradley Nassif on St. John Chrysostom:
The source of John's vision of the gospel was his love for Scripture. Jesus taught that treasures are to be stored in heaven, not on earth (Matt. 6:19-20). The apostle Paul wrote, "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10). Thus John concluded, "A love for wealth is abnormal." He feared that possessions kept for selfish purposes were, in a sense, stolen from the poor. One cannot be rich without keeping others poor. "So destructive a passion is avarice that to grow rich without injustice is impossible," John argued; "The root and origin of riches must have been injustice."
"To grow rich without injustice is impossible." — a leap! I don't see that in the pages of the Bible at all. I don't even see that inferred by St. Paul's teaching. Yes it is true that the love of money (there is nothing inherently evil about money itself) is the root of many evils, but to argue that any person with wealth commits an injustice by the very existence of that wealth is tenuous at best.

"One cannot be rich without keeping others poor." Perhaps St. John could not have known that wealth is not a zero-sum game where the poor are so only because others are rich. Rather, the wealthier a society as a whole becomes, the wealthier ALL become — best expressed in the saying that, "a rising tide lifts all boats." The political Left divides the world between rich and poor, black and white, and other artificial class divisions. Is this the way God divides the world, but Scripture does not support that. God divides the world between those who do good (the righteous) and those who do evil (the wicked). How does God say we should act toward the the rich (or mighty) versus the poor? The Lord says:
Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. -Leviticus 19:15
Along with Micah 6:8, this is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. God demands that we treat one another decently, regardless of whether one is rich or poor, or somewhere in between. "The root and origin of riches must have been injustice" — if true, then why did God bless King Solomon with more riches than any king before him, or any king that would come after him? And if the root of riches is injustice, is the root of poverty, justice? In other words are the poor inherently better people than the rich? Of course not. But what is right and good is to do justice.
For this reason, he envisioned a just society based on equality for all. Because all people are made in the image of God, John sought to defend human dignity regardless of social status. No private property should exist. Everything belongs to God and is given to us for our common use. Material things are not inherently evil. But injustice occurs when some people use material things for profit while others are starving.
"Equality for all." In the 20th century tens of millions of people were murdered in the name of "equality for all" and under the ideology that you can't have what you legally own because others are starving; that is, the ideology of Communism.
"No private property should exist."
If you take away my right to private property, I can take away your right to a church, to worship as you see fit. And that's exactly what totalitarian regimes do.


Read Part II