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Back in the days, people really could write. In the patristics course I’m taking, I’m writing about early Christian attitudes toward wealth and community of goods. In my research I found this awesome sermon by Basil the Great (330-379) – a commentary to Matthew 19:16-22 simply called “To the rich”. Basil is one of the most influential church fathers, known for his defense of the divinity of the Holy Spirit, and boy he had some serious stuff to say about rich folks. I think the text is really prophetic in that it speaks directly to the unequal, consumerist, individualist society of today. Enjoy!
You call him teacher, and you won’t do his lessons? You acknowledge him to be good, and what he gives you you throw away? But, surely, he who is good supplies good things; this is obvious. Although what you ask about is eternal life, you give proof of being utterly addicted to the enjoyment of this present life. What, after all, is this hard, heavy, burdensome word which the Teacher has put forward? “Sell what you have, and give to the poor.”
If he had laid upon you agricultural toils, or hazardous mercantile ventures, or so many other troubles which are incidental to the life of the wealthy, then you’d have had cause for sorrow, taking the order badly; but when he calls you by so easy a road, without toil or sweat, to show yourself an inheritor of eternal life, you are not glad for the ease of salvation, but you go away pained at heart and mourning, making useless for yourself all that you had labored at beforehand. […]
Now, you are obviously very far from having observed one commandment at least, and you falsely swore that you had kept it, namely, that you’ve loved your neighbor as yourself. For see: the Lord’s commandment proves you to be utterly lacking in real love. For if what you’ve claimed were true, that you have kept from your youth the commandment of love, and have given to each person as much as to yourself, how has it come to you, this abundance of money?