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Quotes About Possessions

Quotes about possessions from throughout Christian History.


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Letter to Diognetus, A.D. 80-200

[Christians] share a common table, but not a common bed. (ch. 5)

Christians … are poor, yet make many rich;  they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all. (ch. 5)

He desired to lead us to trust in His kindness, to esteem Him our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counselor, Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honor, Glory, Power, and Life, so that we should not be anxious concerning clothing and food. (ch. 9)

The Didache, A.D. 80 - 160

You shall not turn away from him that is in need, but you shall share all things with your brother and shall not say that they are your own. For if you share what is immortal, how much more things which are temporary? (ch. 4)

Pseudo-Barnabas, A.D. 100-130

You shall share all things with your neighbor; you shall not call things your own; for if you are partakers in common of things which are incorruptible, how much more of those things which are corruptible! (Letter of Barnabas 19)

Justin Martyr, c. A.D. 150

We who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions now bring what we have into a common treasury and share with everyone in need; we who hated and destroyed one another, and on account of their different manners would not live with men of a different tribe, now, since the coming of Christ, live familiarly [lit. "share the same hearth"] with them, pray for our enemies, and try to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, to the end that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all. (First Apology 14)

The wealthy among us help the needy, and we always keep together. For all things with which we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. …

     On the day called Sunday … They who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit, and what is collected is deposited with the president, who helps the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in need. [He helps] those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us. In a word [he] takes care of all who are in need. (First Apology 67)

Minucius Felix, A.D. 160 - 230

The mind is lulled to sleep by luxury, but it is strengthened by frugality.
     Besides, who can be poor if he does not want? Is a person poor if he doesn't want the possessions of others? Can he be poor if he is rich towards God? No, the person who is poor is the one who desires more even though he has much.
     And consider this. Who can be as poor as the day he is born? Birds live without any income. Every day the cattle are fed.
     Just as the person who travels on a road is happier the lighter he walks, so is he happier who carries himself along in poverty in this life and does not breathe heavily under the burden of riches.
     Let me be clear, though, that if we thought wealth was useful for us, we would ask God for it. We are confident that God would answer us in some measure, because he possesses everything. But we would rather despise riches than possess them. What we want is innocence, and what we pray for is patience.
     We prefer being good to being lavish. (The Octavius)

Clement of Alexandria, c. A.D. 190

The love of adornment—which is far from caring for virtue, but claims the body for itself—is to be utterly expelled when the love of the beautiful has changed to empty show. ... It does not show what is decorous, simple, and truly childlike, but what is pompous, luxurious, and effeminate. Such women obscure true beauty, shading it with gold. And they do not know how great their transgression is when they fasten around themselves ten thousand rich chains. As they say that among the barbarians, "Criminals are bound with gold." Such women seem to me to emulate these rich prisoners. (The Instructor II:13)

Love of dainties and love of wine, though great vices, are not of such magnitude as fondness for finery. A full table and repeated cups are enough to satisfy greed. But to those who are fond of gold, purple, and jewels, neither the gold that is above the earth and below it is sufficient, nor the Tyrian Sea, nor the freight that comes from India and Ethiopia, nor yet Pactolus flowing with gold. Not even were a man to become a Midas would he be satisfied, but would be still poor, craving other wealth. Such people are ready to die with their gold. (The Instructor III:2)

Those who bestow laudatory addresses on the rich appear to me to be rightly judged not only as flatterers and base ... and godless, because neglecting to praise and glorify God, who is alone perfect and good ... they invest with divine honours men wallowing in an execrable and abominable life and—here is the principal thing—liable on this account to the judgment of God. They are treacherous, because, although wealth is of itself sufficient to puff up and corrupt the souls of its possessors, and to turn them from the path by which salvation is to be attained, [fletterers] stupefy them still more, by inflating the minds of the rich with the pleasures of extravagant praises, and by making them utterly despise all things except wealth, on account of which they are admired. This brings, as the saying is, fire to fire, pouring pride on pride, and adding conceit to wealth, a heavier burden to that which by nature is a weight. It ought rather to be removed and taken away as a dangerous and deadly disease. For to him who exalts and magnifies himself, the change and downfall to a low condition succeeds in turn, as the divine Word teaches. For it appears to me to be far kinder—than basely to flatter the rich and praise them for what is bad—to aid them in working out their salvation in every possible way. (Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? 1)

If you have worldly wealth; if you have brothers allied by blood and other pledges; then abandon the whole wealth of these, which leads to evil. Procure peace for yourself. Free yourself from protracted persecutions [by a guilty conscience]. Turn from them to the Gospel. Choose before all the Savior and Advocate and Helper of your soul, the Prince of Life.(Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved 35)

For each of us [Jesus] gave his life--the equivalent for all. This he demands from us in return for one another. And if we owe our lives to the brethren and have made such a compact with the Savior, why should we hoard anymore and lock up worldly goods, which are beggarly, foreign to us, and transitory? Shall we lock up from each other what after a little while shall be the property of the fire? Divinely and weightily, John says, "He that does not love his brother is a murderer," the seed of Cain, a nursling of the devil [1 Jn. 3:14-15]. He does not have God's compassion. He has no hope of better things. He is sterile; he is barren; he is not a branch of the ever-living celestial vine from above. He is cut off; he awaits the perpetual fire. (Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved 37)

Tertullian, c. A.D. 210

There is no buying and selling of any sort in the things of God. Though we have our treasure chest, it is not made up of purchase money, as of a religion that has its price.

   On the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation, but only if it be his pleasure and only if he be able. For there is no compulsion, all is voluntary.

   These gifts are, as it were, piety's deposit fund. For they are not taken from ther and spent on feasts, drinking bouts, and eating houses. They are to support and bury poor people, to supply the needs of boys and girls destitute of means and parents and of old persons confined now to the house.

   They also benefit such, too, as have suffered shipwreck. And if there happen to be any in the mines, banished to the islands, or shut up in the prisons for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God's Church; they become the nurslings of their confession.

   But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. "See," they say, "how they love one another," for they themselves are animated by mutual hatred. "How they are ready even to die for one another," for they themselves will sooner put to death. And they are angry with us, too, because we call each other brothers; for no other reason, I think, than because among themselves names of consanguinity [blood relations] are assumed in mere pretence of affection.

   But we are your brothers as well, by the law of our common mother nature, though you are hardly men, because brothers so unkind. At the same time, how much more fittingly they are called and counted brothers who have been led to the knowledge of God as their common Father, who have drunk in one spirit of holiness, who from the same womb of a common ignorance have agonized into the same light of truth! But on this very account, perhaps, we are regarded as having less claim to be held true brothers, that no tragedy makes a noise in our brotherhood, or that the family possessions, which generally destroy brotherhood among you, create fraternal bonds among us. One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives. (Tertullian, Apology 39)

Jerome, d. 419-420

Under Christ's banner seek for no worldly gain, lest having more than when you first became a clergyman, you hear men say to your shame, "Their portion shall not profit them" [Jer. 12:13, LXX]. Welcome poor men and strangers to your homely board, that with them Christ may be your guest. A clergyman who engages in business, and who rises from poverty to wealth, and from obscurity to a high position, avoid as you would the plague! (Letter 52, to Nepotian, par. 6, A.D. 394)

It is the glory of a bishop to make provision for the needs of the poor; but it is the shame of all priests to amass private fortunes. (Letter 52, to Nepotian, par. 7, A.D. 394)

Many build churches nowadays, their walls and pillars of glowing marble, their ceilings glittering with gold, their altars studded with jewels. Yet to the choice of Christ's ministers no heed is paid! And let no one allege against me the wealth of the temple in Judea, its table, its lamps, its censers, its dishes, its cups, its spoons, and the rest of its golden vessels. If these were approved by the Lord it was at a time when the priests had to offer victims and when the blood of sheep was the redemption of sins. They were figures typifying things still future and were "written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" [1 Cor. 10:11]. But now our Lord by his poverty has consecrated the poverty of his house. (Letter 52, to Nepotian, par. 10, A.D. 394)

Martin Luther, c. 1520

From … false preachers the people conceived their fleshly minded notions that led them to expect they would all become lords. Even today the thought still prevails that when the Messiah comes they will all become lords and have the heathen as their servants. ("First Sunday in Advent" from Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, vol. V [Grand Rapids, MI:BakerBooks, 2007] p. 25)

John Piper, 1986

God increases our yield so that by giving we can prove our yield is not our god. God does not prosper a man's business so he can move from a Ford to a Cadillac. God prospers a business so that 17,000 unreached peoples can be reached with the gospel. He prospers a business so that twelve percent of the world's population can move a step back from the precipice of starvation. (Desiring God, p 198; cited by Post-Methodist blog)

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