Who are the greedy? Those who are not satisfied with what suffices for their own needs. Who are the robbers? Those who take for themselves what rightfully belongs to everyone. And you, are you not greedy? Are you not a robber? The things you received in trust as a stewardship, have you not appropriated them for yourself? Is not the person who strips another of clothing called a thief? And those who do not clothe the naked when they have the power to do so, should they not be called the same? The bread you are holding back is for the hungry, the clothes you keep put away are for the naked, the shoes that are rotting away from disuse are for those who have none, the silver you keep buried in the earth is for the needy. You are thus guilty of injustice toward as many as you might have aided, and did not.
On Social Gospel, St Basil the Great, Translation by C. Paul Schroeder, St Vladimir's Seminary Press, New York, 2009, pgs 69-70
If peace is to be established, the first condition is to root out the causes of discord among men which lead to wars—in the first place, injustice. Not a few of these causes arise out of excessive economic inequalities and out of hesitation to undertake necessary correctives. Some are due to the desire for power and to contempt for people, and at a deeper level, to envy, distrust, pride, and other selfish passions. Man cannot put up with such an amount of disorder; the result is that, even when war is absent, the world is constantly beset by strife and violence between men.
Vatican II, Volume 1, fifth printing, 2004, Costello Publishing Company, Dominican Publications, Church in the Modern World, Section 2, part of item 83, page 993
... capital prospered in the 1840s and industrial projects grew, while labor incomes stagnated. This was obvious to everyone, even though in those days aggregate national statistics did not yet exist. It was in this context that the first communist and socialist movements developed. The central argument was simple: What was the good of industrial development, what was the good of all the technological innovations, toil, and population movements if, after half a century of industrial growth, the condition of the masses was still just as miserable as before, and all lawmakers could do was prohibit factory labor by children under the age of eight?
Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty, Belknap Harvard, 2014, p 8
Charles Finney and Business
from Lecture 7, Glorifying God, found in The Promise of the Spirit, Bethany Press, 1980, Charles G. Finney, Compiled & Edited by Timothy L. Smith, pages 94-105
… 12. Since my last lecture was written, a question has been proposed to me by a brother, and answer to which may well be given here. It is, does the law of love, when applied to business transactions, require that man should merely support his family by his business, and have nothing more, or less, reserved to himself? I answer,
(1) That the support of a man’s family is not to be the end at which he aims; but as I have already said, the support of ourselves or families is to be regarded by us as one of the means of glorifying God.
(2) That the support of one’s self or family is by no means to be the criterion by which we are to be governed in the transaction of business; that is, whatever it may cost to support ourselves or families is not to regulate the prices at which we are to buy or sell. If a man should keep one cow, and, under the pretense of her being the support of his family, should attempt to sell milk at two shillings per quart, this certainly would not be lawful, any more than keeping one hen and attempting, under the pretense of support his family, to sell eggs for one dollar each would be lawful. The truth is that no man has a right to attempt to support himself or family in such a way as this.
So, on the other hand, if a man be engaged in an extensive business, the amount of his necessary expenditures in the maintenance of his family is not to be the criterion by which he is to be governed in his established prices. But in buying and selling he is to have the same regard to the interest of every individual with whom he trades as his own. He is to sell of low as he can, without injuring himself more than he benefits others. And the amount of what he makes must depend upon the amount and nature of his business.
Suppose a wholesale merchant to employ an immense capital and perform a vast amount of business, and suppose him to supply one hundred country merchants with goods; and in this suppose him to consult the good of each, equally with his own. In this case the aggregate of his income would be equal to the aggregate of all their incomes together, so that in fact he might become very rich and have it is his power to exercise great hospitality and greatly promote benevolent objects, and still consult every man’s interest, with whom he trades, equally with his own.
13. Here another question may be and has been recently asked. It is said, if every man is bound to sell as low as to consult every customer’s interest with his own, then those who have a small capital cannot live by their business. To this I answer that no man has a right to live by [a] business by which he cannot support himself and transact it upon the principle of the law of God.
I was asked the other day this question: suppose a man, in the employment of an immense capital, should conduct his business upon the principle of the law of God and, in consulting his customer’s interests as much as his own, should undersell those of smaller capital, or sell at prices so low that they would become bankrupt in attempting to support their families at these prices? Now in this case, it is said that the man of great capital would ruin the business of all the rest.
To this I reply, it is every man’s duty to benefit the public as much as possible. And if one man can supply the market at a lower rate than others, he ought to supply it, and no others have a right to complain. Individuals and their families are not to be supported at the expense of public and higher interests. If other individuals cannot afford to act upon the law of love, their business ought to cease. And they are bound to engage in some employment in which they can conform themselves to the law of God. The very question I have been answering is founded upon the supposition that every man has a right to engage in any particular calling and support his family by it, whether consistent or inconsistent with the public good. But this is the direct reverse of the truth.
If one man, therefore, is so circumstanced that he can supply the whole demand in any market more advantageously to the public than another, he not only has a right but is bound to do so and the other is under obligation to retire.
Another question has been proposed, namely, if persons are to sell as cheap as they can, without injuring themselves more than they benefit those with whom they deal, would not their profits be so small at to prevent their accumulating property with which to do good? Now this is indeed a strange question. If a man is living and conducting business upon the principles of the law of God, or of love, he is all the time doing good upon the largest scale possible. And can it be imagined that he would really do more good by over-reaching his customers for the sake of giving his property to others? Shall a man do injustice to one man, and violate the law of God, for the sake of giving to another man? As well might a man steal to give to the poor or support the gospel, under the pretense of doing good, as in any other respect to violate the law of love for the sake of acquiring property to do good with. It should be understood that the man who lives and feels and acts and transacts business upon the principles of the law of God is continually doing all the good in his power. He is diffusing more happiness, by far, than if he were grinding the faces of his customers one day, to give to some benevolent object the next.
It is as ridiculous as it is wicked for a man to violate the law of benevolence under the pretense of having something to give away. Suppose that every man were conformed to the law of love; then every man would be continually doing all that he possibly could do for benevolent objects. And in such a case, where would be the necessity of one man laying up money to give to these objects? He is giving as fast as he receives to benevolent objects. The fact is that in such a case the coffers of all benevolent institutions would immediately overflow. The ice that has so long locked up the channels of love would be universally dissolved, and the streams of light and life and love would flow on, until what are now commonly called objects of charity and benevolence could not be found….
My feet almost slipped;
my feet almost slid out from under me.
For I envied those who are proud,
as I observed the prosperity of the wicked.
For they suffer no pain;
their bodies are strong and well-fed.
They are immune to the trouble common to men;
they do not suffer as other men do.
Arrogance is their necklace,
and violence their clothing.
Their prosperity causes them to do wrong;
their thoughts are sinful.
They mock and say evil things;
they proudly threaten violence.
They speak as if they rule in heaven,
and lay claim to the earth.
Therefore they have more than enough food to eat,
and even suck up the water of the sea.
They say, "How does God know what what we do?
Is the sovereign One aware of what goes on?"
Take a good look! This is what the wicked are like,
those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer.
Psalms 73:2-12, The NET Bible
Excerpt from De pauperum amore
Brethren and friends, let us never allow ourselves to misuse that has been given us by God’s gift. If we do, we shall hear Saint Peter say: Be ashamed of yourselves for holding on to what belongs to someone else. Resolve to imitate God’s justice, and no one will be poor. Let us not labor to heap up and hoard riches while others remain in need. If we do, the prophet Amos will speak out against us with sharp and threatening words: Come now, you that say: When will the new moon be over, so that we may start selling? When will Sabbath be over, so that we may start opening our treasures?
Let us put into practice the supreme and primary law of God. He sends down rain on just and sinful alike, and causes the sun to rise on all without distinction. To all earth’s creatures he has given the broad earth, the springs, the rivers and forests. He has given the air to the birds, and the water to those who live in the water. He has given abundantly to all the basic needs of life, not as a private possession, not restricted by law, not divided by boundaries, but as common to all, amply and in rich measure. His gifts are not deficient in any way, because he wanted to give equality of blessing to equality of worth, and to show abundance of his generosity.
Gregory of Nazianzen, from Liturgy of Hours, volume 2, p97, Second Reading for Monday, 1st week of Lent, Catholic Book Publishing Corp. New York, 1976
Consider everyone as equal
, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart.
Romans 12.16 CEB
Remove anxiety from your heart, banish pain from your body, because youth and the dawn of life are pointless too.
Remember our creator in your prime,
before the days of trouble arrive,
and those years, about which you’ll say, “I take no pleasure in these”—
before the sun and the light grow dark,
the moon and the stars too,
before the clouds return after the rain;
on the day when the housekeepers tremble
and the strong men stoop;
when the women who grind stop working because they’re so few,
and those who look through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are shut,
when the sound of the mill fades,
the sound of the bird rises, and all the singers come down low;
when people are afraid of things above and of terrors along the way;
when the almond tree blanches, the locust droops,
and the caper-berry comes to nothing;
when the human goes to the eternal adobe,
with mourners all around in the street;
before the silver cord snaps
and the gold bowl shatters;
the jar is broken at the spring
and the wheel is crushed at the pit;
before dust returns to the earth as it was before
and the life-breath returns to God who gave it,
Ecclesiastes 11.10 – 12.8, CEB
I promised I would watch my steps
so as not to sin with my tongue;
promised to keep my mouth shut as long as the wicked where in my presence.
So I was completely quiet, silent.
I kept my peace, but it did no good.
My pain got worse.
My heart got hot inside me;
while stewing over it, the fire burned.
Then I spoke out with my tongue:
"Let me know my end, Lord.
How many days do I have left?
I want to know how brief my time is."
You've made my days so short;
my lifetime is like nothing in your eyes.
Yes, a human life is nothing but a puff of air!
Yes, people wander around like shadows;
yes, they hustle and bustle, but pointlessly;
they don't even know who will get the wealth they've amassed.
So now, Lord, what should I be waiting for?
My hope is set on you.
Deliver me from all my sins;
don't make me some foolish person's joke.
I am completely silent; I won't open my mouth because you have acted.
Get this plague of yours off me!
I'm being destroyed by the blows from your fist.
You discipline people for their sin, punishing them;
like a moth, you ruin what they treasure.
Yes, a human life is just a puff of air!
Hear my prayer, Lord!
Listen closely to my cry for help!
Please don't ignore my tears!
I'm just a foreigner --
an immigrant staying with you,
just like my ancestors were.
Look away from me so I can be happy again
before I pass away and am gone.
Psalm 39, CEB
Love does no wrong to a neighbor;
therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Romans 13.10, ESV
I am of old and young,
of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal,
a child as well as a man,
Stuffed with the stuff that is course,
and stuffed with the stuff that is fine.
In all people I see myself,
none more and not one a barleycorn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself
I say of them.
In the faces of men and women I see God,
and in my own face in the glass,
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
give alms to every one that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others,
argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men,
go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families,
read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book,
dismiss whatever insults your own soul,
and your very flesh shall be a great poem…