Wednesday, January 26, 2011

John Chrysostom said...

John Chrysostom (ca. 349-407) was an early church preacher, a "Doctor of the Church" who was trained in rhetoric and who, it is said, had the entire Bible memorized.  I found the following quote while reading the wikipedia article on him. 

He said, "It is not possible for one to be wealthy and just at the same time.  Do you pay such honor to your excrements as to receive them into a silver chamber-pot when another man made in the image of God is perishing in the cold?"

We might say, "How can you spend so much money on your toilet when other people are starving?" BUT Chrysostom was bluntly stating much more than merely criticizing the amount of money you spend on your bed pan.  He was stating that a wealthy person cannot be just. 

What do you think?


  1. Well, there's a tough challenge. I'll have to think about that. There's always the problem of "how rich is rich?" In this context, I'm rich simply because I'm American and not living on a dollar a day? I'm thinking so.

  2. That's a great question and point. The fact that we are Americans does provide many of us, not all, with many more resources than most others in the world. "From everyone who has been given much much will be demanded" (Luke 12:48) resounds in my own ears and requires me to consider the fact that everything that I have is gift from God. How am I responbily using God's resources to help others? I think that Isaiah 58:6-7 (and surrounding context) is important to consider here too.
    6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
    to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
    to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
    7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
    when you see the naked, to clothe him,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

  3. I can see where he's coming from. By "just" I assume he meant a form of social justice (i.e. charity) where those 'with' would assist those 'without'. This is extreme. Note that Wikipedia also says he practiced asceticism which many believe is the discipline of 'simplicity' taken to an unhealthy level, but I can still see where he's coming from...

  4. Being rich is very relative. For instance in this nation if you have a place to stay either rented or otherwise even if you barely have enough to eat you are "richer" than 99% but are you able to give? If you do you lose your place to stay? Become homeless then become poor now your just by virtue of poverty?

    Richness is inconsequential to justness. Generosity is the true gauge.

  5. I guess in a completely 'just' world (according to Chrysostom), everyone would have the same amount of money and quantity of possessions--having been voluntarily been 'redistributed' to those who have less. Even if true, this can only be one aspect of what makes a person just.

    Does God's Kingdom suggest complete redistriubtion of wealth? Somehow I doubt it, but confess that charity as it is practiced today usually falls pathetically short of what is expected.

  6. I was talking to a young student recently about this concept. He was in a confused state because to pay for college is something only a rich man could do. So he feared he was being untrue to Jesus by going to college. We talked and spending and saving and not giving to charity in order to have the money to go to college is far more charitable than not. Greater opportunity to serve God and a greater paycheck ultimately. So with-holding some charitable giving (this student still tithes) ultimately will set you up to be bale to give and help more than you ever could. Also if you have children saving for them and enabling them to have better incomes that can produce greater money for charity and social justice is far better.

    Think of TOMS shoes. This company give away a pair of shoes for everyone bought. The individual who started it could have just bought a bunch of shoes but since he used to make a business, it has done ten times what just buying shoes could have done.