Ought We to Sell All We Have? Wealth, Poverty, and the Virtue of Living Simply




Both, Ryan

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Christian thought has not always been situated in the context of the modern consumerist economy, but it has always found itself concerned with the proper treatment of wealth, that it might accord with—and dispose one to—charity. The intent of this paper is to understand some of the development of Christian thought on topics such as wealth, poverty, counsel, and command, to craft a theology of wealth consistent with the Patristic theology but applicable to Christian living in the modern world. It begins with a discussion of Early Church texts on wealth and poverty. Through these writings, I seek to understand and articulate the extent to which Christ’s words should be interpreted literally and to whom they are directed, as well as the effects of having wealth or embracing poverty. Then, I turn to St. Thomas’ writings on poverty and liberality—the two key responses to Christ’s counsel to the ruler—and two early Reformers’ refutations of evangelical counsels and their benefits. Having considered these different theologies, I argue that looking to the example of ascetic Christians as they follow Christ, pursuing the virtue of liberality in one’s spending, and living simply are the most practical things one can do in cultivating a disposition to love of God and neighbor.



Asceticism., Patristics., Saint Basil., Wealth and Poverty., Simplicity., Vocation., Liberality., Christian Ethics., Catholicism., Evangelical Counsels., Counsels., Laity., Voluntary Poverty., Catholic Social Teaching.