Question

Recently I came across some quotes from St. John Chrysostom concerning wealth which I find disturbing. First, he writes, “our money is the Lord’s, however we may have gathered it.” Second, God allows us wealth “not for you to waste on prostitutes, drink, fancy food, expensive clothes, and all the other kinds of indolence, but for you to distribute to those in need.” He also writes that wealth is theft, not because it was stolen as a means of gaining wealth, but because keeping it is to deprive others of their needs: “To deprive is to take what belongs to another; for it is called deprivation when we take and keep what belongs to others.” Chrysostom’s words seem to go against the spirit of the Gospel that beckons and knocks, as opposed to bullying people into submission. Also, Orthodoxy teaches not only asceticism but feasting, so I don’t understand why he is so condemning of all excess. Chrysostom’s words keep me feeling condemned about spending any money on vacation, eating out, etc. I understand not spending money on prostitution, but the rest seems a bit harsh, almost to the point on anti-materialism. Does he really mean we shouldn’t ever spend money on anything other than the very basic needs and then “the poor.”

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