WEALTH EXISTS TO BE SHARED
Riches fulfil their function of service to man when they are destined to produce benefits for others and for society [The Shepherd of Hermas]. “How could we ever do good to our neighbour,” asks St. Clement of Alexandria, “if none of us possessed anything?” In the perspective of St. John Chrysostom, riches belong to some people so that they can gain merit by sharing them with others. Wealth is a good that comes from God and is to be used by its owner and made to circulate so that even the needy may enjoy it. Evil is seen in the immoderate attachment to riches and the desire to hoard. St. Basil the Great invites the wealthy to open the doors of their storehouses and he exhorts them: “A great torrent rushes, in thousands of channels, through the fertile land: thus, by a thousand different paths, make your riches reach the homes of the poor”. Wealth, explains Saint Basil, is like water that issues forth from the fountain: the greater the frequency with which it is drawn, the purer it is, while it becomes foul if the fountain remains unused. The rich man — Saint Gregory the Great will later say — is only an administrator of what he possesses; giving what is required to the needy is a task that is to be performed with humility because the goods do not belong to the one who distributes them. He who retains riches only for himself is not innocent; giving to those in need means paying a debt.
No. 329 from the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church”, 2004