Mike Aquilina

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Tuesday June 20th 2006, 5:20 am

St. John Chrysostom shows the insight of an economist on the interdependence of all people: producers, consumers, merchants, tradesmen, rich, and poor. This comes from his homilies on 1 Corinthians

In regard to wealth: If you enjoy it alone, you too have lost it. For you will not reap its reward. But if you possess it jointly with the rest, then will it be more your own, and then will you reap the benefit of it.

Don’t you see that the hands minister, and the mouth softens, and the stomach receives? Does the stomach say, “Since I have received I ought to keep it all?” Then don’t you, I pray, use this language in regard to riches. For it belongs to the receiver to give. Just as it is a vice in the stomach to retain the food and not to distribute it (for it is injurious to the whole body), so it is a vice in those that are rich to keep to themselves what they have. For this destroys both themselves and others. Again, the eye receives all the light, but it does not itself alone retain it, but enlightens the entire body. Again, the nostrils are sensible of perfume, but they do not keep it all to themselves, but transmit it to the brain and affect the stomach with a sweet savor, and by their means refresh the entire man. The feet alone walk, but they move not away themselves only, but transfer also the whole body. In like manner you should do, whatsoever you have been entrusted with, keep it not to yourself alone, since you are doing harm to the whole and to yourself more than all.

And not only in the case of the limbs may one see this occurring, for the smith also, if he chose to impart his craft to no one, ruins both himself and all other crafts. Likewise the cordwainer, the husbandman, the baker and everyone of those who pursue any necessary calling, if he chose not to train anyone in his art, will ruin not the others only but himself also with them.

And why do I say “the rich”? For the poor too, if they followed after the wickedness of you who are covetous and rich, would injure you very greatly and soon make you poor. Rather they would quite destroy you, were they, in your need, unwilling to give you of their own: the tiller of the ground, of the labor of his hands the sailor of the gain from his voyages, the soldier of his distinction won in the wars.

If nothing else, let this at least put you to shame that you may imitate their benevolence. Do you give none of your wealth to anyone? Then you should not receive anything from another, in which case the world will be turned upside down. For in everything to give and receive is the principle of numerous blessings — in seeds, in scholars, in arts. For if anyone wishes to keep his art to himself, he subverts both himself and the whole course of things. And the husbandman, if he bury and keep the seeds in his house, will bring about a grievous famine. So also the rich man, if he act thus in regard of his wealth, will destroy himself before the poor, heaping up the fire of hell more grievously upon his own head.