God and Gold

A meditation on St. Augustine's wrestling with a problem most modern Christian and Jewish thinkers prefer to avoid. Can you trade earthly gold for heavenly? What does it take to do so?

1 comment:

MikeD said...

I'm not sure why I'm seeing a flood of this recently, but a lot of my (not-surprisingly) irreligious friends post things about "if this is supposed to be a Christian country, then we are supposed to be feeding the poor." The implication being that we're not currently doing so (even though about the only way to actually starve to death in this country is to be mentally ill or an abused dependent), and that having the State feed the poor is somehow the same as charity.

Now there's really no point in telling them that asking the government to steal money from other people in order to feed the poor is not charity, it's theft. Because they disagree that it's stealing. Charity is the voluntary sacrifice of personal wealth for the well being of others (preferably without hope of reward or recompense). I know a few people who would reject the idea that you can buy your way into Heaven through charity. And I lean in that direction as well. Hitler could have given away his every earthly possession and still never entered Heaven, because he was a monster. The widow in Scripture who gave her last copper to the poor may have done next to nothing by way of value for charity, but more than likely the charity she DID provide was a more Heaven-worthy sacrifice than the rich man who gives gold to the Church.

I think true charity which comes from the heart is not (by itself) "buying treasures in Heaven", but more a reflection on the good that person does in all other aspects of life as well. Someone who genuinely cares for the poor and sacrifices of themselves to help the poor very likely performs other virtuous (and Heaven-worthy) acts as well on a regular basis. I.e. they're a good person. I personally feel that those who want the government to give to the poor on their behalf probably do care about the plight of the poor. But I also believe they don't want to be inconvenienced by the sacrifice it takes to help the poor. In other words, they're sympathetic and wish you would do more to help. But they're tapped out this month, so... you know.