This is a collection of Bible verses, with additional commentary from early Church doctors and even recent papal encyclicals, that presents a consistent argument, from the earliest days of our religion, against the accumulation of wealth and disregard for poor people and workers.
For a more detailed analysis, I cannot recommend highly enough Father Jose Miranda’s books “Marx and the Bible” and “Communism in the Bible.” While I don’t necessarily identify with Marxist political theory and certainly not with authoritarian communism, Father Miranda provides an excellent analysis of social inequities created by capitalism and private property and he makes a strong case of a scriptural and traditional basis for liberation theology, an idea that continues to grow and unfold.
Moreover, as follower of Christ, and as these following passages make abundantly clear, we are called to challenge capitalism, greed, and the pursuit of profit in all its forms — from the neoliberal capitalism of today to the state capitalism that invariably grows from authoritarian communist states to the laissez faire capitalism that seeks to substitute profit and the “free market” for the knowing guidance of the God of justice.
Notes: This is a living document. More source materials will be added as they become available. Please contact me with any additions, corrections, or suggestions. Any comments that show a clear bias toward or attempt to apologize for capitalism will be removed. This is not the the place for argument. All Bible verses are taken from the “New American Bible, Revised Edition 2010”
THE OLD TESTAMENT
Now this is what the Lord has commanded. Gather as much of it as each needs to eat, an omer for each person for as many of you as there are, each of you providing for those in your own tent. The Israelites did so. Some gathered a large and some a small amount. But when they measured it out by the omer, the one who had gathered a large amount did not have too much, and the one who had gathered a small amount did not have too little.
You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely listen to their cry.
If you lend money to my people, the poor among you, you must not be like a money lender; you must not demand interest from them. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this is his only covering; it is the cloak for his body. What will he sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will listen; for I am compassionate.
You shall not exploit your neighbor. You shall not commit robbery. You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your laborer.
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not be so thorough that you reap the field to its very edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. These things you shall leave for the poor and the alien. I, the Lord, am your God.
Leviticus 25:8-22 (The Jubilee Year)
You shall count seven weeks of years–seven times seven years–such that seven weeks of years amount to forty-nine years. Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month let the ram’s horn resound; on this, the Day of Atonement, the ram;s horn blast shall resound throughout your land. You shall treat this fiftieth year as sacred. You shall proclaim liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to your own property, each to your own family. This fiftieth year is your year of jubilee: you shall not sow, nor shall you reap the aftergrowth or pick the untrimmed vines, since this is the jubilee. It shall be sacred for you. You may only eat what the field yields of itself.
In this year of jubilee, then, each of you shall return to your own property. Therefore, when you sell any land to your neighbor or buy any from your neighbor, do not deal unfairly with one another. On the basis of the number of years since the last jubilee you shall purchase the land from your neighbor, and so also, on the basis of the number of years of harvest, that person shall sell it to you. When the years are many, the price shall be so much the more; when th; when the years are few, the price shall be so much the less. For it is really the number of harvests that the person sells you. Do not deal unfairly with one another, then; but stand in fear of your God. I, the Lord, and your God.
Observe my statutes and be careful to keep my ordinances, so that you will dwell securely in the land. The land will yield its fruit and you will eat your fill and live there securely. And if you say, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we do not sow or reap our crop?” I will command such a blessing for you in the sixth year that there will be crop enough for three years, and when you sow the eighth year, you will still be eating from the old crop; even into the ninth year, until the crop comes in, you will still be eating from the old crop.
Leviticus 25:23-28 (Redemption of property)
The land shall not be sold irrevocably; for the land is mine, and you are but resident aliens and under my authority. Therefore, in every part of the country that you occupy, you must allow the land to be redeemed. When one of your kindred is reduced to poverty and has to sell some property, that person’s closest relative, who has the duty to redeem it, shall come and redeem what the relative has sold. If, however, the person has no relative to redeem it, but later on acquires sufficient means to redeem it, the person shall calculate the years since the sale, return the balance to the one to whom it was sold, and thus regain the property. But if the person does not acquire sufficient means to buy back the land, what was sold shall remain in the possession of the purchaser until the year of the jubilee, when it must be released and returned to the original owner.
Leviticus 25:35-38 (Support of those in poverty)
When one of your kindred is reduced to poverty and becomes indebted to you, you shall support that person like a resident alien; let your kindred live with you. Do not exact interest in advance of accrued interest, but out of fear of God let your kindred live with you. Do not give your money at interest or your food at a profit. I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
The tenant alien shall treat those who sold themselves as laborers hired on an annual basis, and the alien shall not lord it over them harshly before your very eyes. And it they are not redeemed by these means, they shall nevertheless be released, together with any children, in the jubilee year. For the Israelites belong to me as servants; they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt, I, the Lord, your God.
For the Lord, your God, is the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who has no favorites, accepts no bribes, who executes justice for the orphan and the window, and loves the resident alien, giving them food and clothing. So you too should love the resident alien, for that is what you were in the land of Egypt.
And the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithes of your produce for that year and deposit them within your own communities, that the Levite who has no hereditary portion with you, and also the resident alien, the orphan and the widow within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied; so that the Lord, your God, may bless you in all that you undertake.
You shall not demand interest from your kindred on a loan of money or of food or of anything else which is loaned.
When you go through your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat as many grapes as you wish, until you are satisfied, but do not put them in your basket. When you go through your neighbor’s grainfield, you may pluck some of the ears with your hand, but do not put a sickle to your neighbor’s grain.
You shall not deprive the resident alien (stranger) or the orphan of justice, nor take the clothing of a widow as pledge. For, remember, you were slaves in Egypt, and the Lord, your God, redeemed you from there; that is why I command you to do this.
When you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; let it be for the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord, your God, may bless you in all your undertakings. When you knock down the fruit of your olive trees, you shall not go over the branches a second time; let what remains be for the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow. When you pick your grapes, you shall not go over the vineyard a second time; let what remains be for the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow. For remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt; that is why I command you to do this.
THE WISDOM BOOKS
“The rich grow poor and go hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
Oh God, give your judgment to the king; your justice to the king’s son; That hey may govern your people with justice, your oppressed with right judgment, That the mountains may yield their bounty for the people, and the hills great abundance, That he may defend the oppressed among the people, save the children of the poor and crush the oppressor.
“Defend the lowly and fatherless; render justice to the afflicted and needy. Rescue the lowly and the poor; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Wealth and riches shall be in his house; his righteousness shall endure forever. Light shines through the darkness for the upright; gracious, compassionate, and righteous. It is good for the man gracious in lending, who conducts his affairs with justice. For he shall never be shaken; the righteous shall be remembered forever. He shall not fear an ill report; his heart is steadfast, trusting the Lord. His heart is tranquil, without fear, til at last he looks down on his foes. Lavishly he gives to the poor; his righteousness shall endure forever; his horn shall be exalted in honor.
[Blessed the one who] secures justice for the oppressed, who gives bread to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free; the Lord gives sight to the blind. The Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord protects the resident alien, comes to the aid of the orphan and the widow, but thwarts the way of the wicked. The Lord shall reign forever, your God, Zion, through all generations!
Ill-gotten treasures profit nothing, but justice saves from death.
For almsgiving (sedakah, which signifies justice) delivers from death and keeps one from entering into Darkness.
Prayer with fasting is good. Almsgiving (sedakah, which signifies justice) with righteousness is better than wealth with wickedness. It is better to give alms than to store up gold, for almsgiving (sedakah) saves from death, and purges all sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life, but those who commit sin and do evil are their own worst enemies.
So, my children, see what almsgiving (sedakah, which signifies justice) does, and also what wickedness does — it kills! But now my spirit is about to leave me.
Do not rely on deceitful wealth, for it will be no help on the day of wrath.
As water quenches a flaming fire, so almsgiving (sedakah, which signifies justice) atones for sins. The kindness people have done crosses their paths later on; should they stumble, they will find support. My child, do not mock the life of the poor; do not keep needy eyes waiting. Do not grieve the hungry, nor anger the needy. Do not aggravate a heart already angry, nor delay giving to the needy. A beggars request do not reject; do not turn your face away from the poor. From the needy do not turn your eyes; do not give them reason to curse you. If in their pain they cry out bitterly, their Rock will hear the sound of their cry.
Do not be impatient in prayer or neglect almsgiving (sedakah, which signifies justice). Do not ridicule the embittered; Remember: there is One who exalts and humbles.
If you do good, know for whom you are doing it, and your kindness will have its effect. Do good to the righteous and reward will be yours, if not from them, from the Lord. No good comes to those who give comfort to the wicked, nor is it an act of mercy that they do. Give to the good but refuse the sinner; refresh the downtrodden but give nothing to the proud.
For the sake of profit many sin, and the struggle for their wealth blinds the eyes. A stake will be driven between fitted stones–sin will be wedged in between buying and selling.
I recognized that there is nothing better than to rejoice and to do well during life. Moreover, that all can eat and drink and enjoy the good of their toil–this is a gift from God.
Isaiah 2:4 (Swords into plowshares)
He shall judge between the nations, and set terms for many peoples. The shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.
Until the spirit from on high is poured out on us. And the wilderness becomes a garden land and the garden land seems as common as forest. Then judgment will dwell in the wilderness and justice abide in the garden land. The work of justice will be peace; the effect of justice, calm and security forever.
All you who are thirsty, come to the water. You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost! Why spend money for what is not bread; your wages for what does not satisfy? Only listen to me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, release the prisoners.
For criminals lurk among my people; live fowlers they set traps, but it is human beings they catch. Their houses are full of treachery as a bird-cage is of birds; Therefore they grow powerful and rich, fat and sleek. They pass over wicked deeds; justice they do not defend, By advancing the claim of the orphan or judging the cause of the poor. Shall I not punish these things?–oracle of the Lord; on a nation such as this shall I not take vengeance?
Thus says the Lord: Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and there deliver this word: You shall say: Listen to the word of the Lord, king of Judah, who sit on the throne of David, you, your ministers, and your people who enter by these gates! Thus says the Lord: Do what is right and just. Rescue the victims from the hand of their oppressors. Do not wrong or oppress the resident alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
Woe to him who builds his house on wrongdoing, his roof-chambers on injustice; Who works his neighbors without pay, and gives them no wages. Who says, “I will build myself a spacious house, with airy rooms, Who cuts windows for it, panels it with cedar, and paints it with vermilion. Must you prove your rank among kings, by competing with them in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink, And act justly a righteously? Then he prospered. Because he dispensed justice to the weak and the poor, he prospered. Is this not to know me?–oracle of the Lord. But your eyes and heart are set on nothing except your own gain (profit), On shedding innocent blood and practicing oppression and extortion.
Therefore, O king, may my advice be acceptable to you; atone for your sins by good deeds, and for your misdeeds by kindness to the poor; then your contentment will be long lasting.
But you have plowed wickedness, reaped perversity, and eaten the fruit of falsehood. Because you have trusted in your own power, and in your many warriors, the clamor of war shall break out among your people and all your fortresses shall be ravaged…
Proclaim this in the strongholds of Assyria, in the strongholds of the land of Egypt: “Gather on the mount of Samaria, and see the great disorders within it, the oppressions within the midst.” They do not know how to do what is right–oracle of the Lord–Storing up in their strongholds violence and destruction. Therefore, thus says the Lord God: An enemy shall surround the land, tear down your fortresses, and pillage your strongholds.
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who live on the mount of Samaria: Who oppress the destitute and abuse the needy; Who say to your husbands, “Bring us a drink!” The Lord God has sword by his holiness: Truly days are coming upon you when they shall drag you away with ropes, your children with fishhooks; You shall go out through breached walls one in front of the other, And you shall be exiled to Harmon–oracle of the Lord.
Therefore, because you tax the destitute and exact from them levies of grain, Though you have built houses of hewn stone, you shall not live in them; Though you have planted choice vineyards, you shall not drink their wine. Yes, I know how many are your crimes, how grievous your sins: Oppressing the just, accepting bribes, turning away the needy at the gate.
Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land: “When will the moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell our grain, And the sabbath, that we may open the grain-bins? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the destitute for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the worthless grain we will sell!” The Lord has sworn by the price of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!
Ah! you plotters of iniquity, who work out evil on your beds! In the morning light you carry it out for it lies within your power. You covet fields, and sieze them; houses, and take them; You cheat owners of their houses, people of their inheritance.
Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel! You who abhor justice, and pervert all that is right: Who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with wickedness! Its leaders render judgment for a bribe, the priests teach for pay, the prophets divine for money, While they rely on the Lord, saying, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No evil can come upon us!” Therefore, because of you, Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem reduced to rubble, And the mount of the temple to a forest ridge.
Micah 4:3 (Swords into plowshares)
He shall judge between many peoples and set terms for strong and distant nations; They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.
Why do you let me see iniquity? why do you simply gaze at evil? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and discord. This is why the law is numb and justice never comes, For the wicked surround the just, this is why justice comes forth perverted.
Ah! you who store up what is not yours–how long can it last!–you who load yourself down with collateral. Will your debtors not rise suddenly? Will they not awake, those who make you tremble? You will become their spoil! Because you plundered many nations, the remaining peoples shall plunder you; Because of the shedding of human blood, and violence done to the land, to the city and to all who live in it. Ah! you who pursue evil gain for your household, cutting off many peoples, forfeiting your own life; For the stone in the wall shall cry out, and the beam in the frame shall answer it! Ah! you who build a city by bloodshed, and who establish a town with injustice.
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Judge with true justice, and show kindness and compassion toward each other. Do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the resident alien or the poor; do not plot evil against one another in your hearts.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“But take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms (sedakah, which signifies justice), do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that almsgiving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law of the prophets.”
Matthew 10:7-10 (Commissioning of the Twelve)
“As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.
The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And he said to them, “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you are making a den of thieves.” The blind and the lame approached him in the temple area, and he cured them.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on the right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you have me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you? And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you have me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me. Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs? He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for the least ones, you did not do for me. And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and mother.'” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus said in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.
One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Luke 1:46-53 (Canticle of Mary; Magnificat)
And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty…”
He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has non. And whoever has food should do likewise.”
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.”
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will grieve and weep.”
And he said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treat him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
“I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth (“money of injustice”), so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich an also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.'”
Jesus looked at him [now sad] and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they all saw this they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” But Zaccheus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
If I, therefor, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.
John 13:34-35 (The New Commandment)
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Thus Joseph, also named by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles.
Acts 5:1-10 (Ananias and Sapphira)
A man named Ananias, however, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. He retained for himself, with his wife’s knowledge, some of the purchase price, took the remainder, and put it at the feet of the apostles. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart so that you lied to the holy Spirit and retained part of the price of your land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours? And when it was sold, was it not still under your control? Why did you contrive this deed? You have lied not to human beings, but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last, and great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped him up, then carried him out and buried him.
After an interval of about three hours, his wife came in, unaware of what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me, did you sell the land for this amount?” She answered, “Yes, for that amount.” Then Peter said to her, “Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen, the footsteps of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” At once, she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men entered they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
Acts 20:35 (Paul’s farewell speech)
So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears. And now I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated. I have never wanted anyone’s gold or silver or clothing. You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. In every way I have shown you that by hard word of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
One is not a Jew outwardly. True circumcision is not outward, in the flesh. Rather, one is a Jew inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, not the letter; his praise is not from human beings but from God.
1 Corinthians 4:10-13
We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands. We ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment.
2 Corinthians 8:8-9
I say this not by way of command, but to test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others. For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
2 Corinthians 8:12-15
For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have; not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your surplus at the present time should supply their needs, so that their surplus may also supply your needs, that there may be equality. As it is written, “Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is now law.
For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. (lit. “serve one another through love”)
The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with one in need.
Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.
2 Thessalonians 3:10
In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.
1 John 3:17-18
If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech, but in deed and truth.
1 John 4:7-8
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4:12
No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.
1 John 4:16
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world.
1 John 4:20-21
If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever love God must also love his brother.
Come now you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will he a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earct in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.
EARLY CHURCH DOCTORS
St. Basil of Caesarea (c. 330-379)
“Who is the covetous man? One for whom plenty is not enough. Who is the defrauder? One who takes away what belongs to everyone. And are not you covetous, are you not a defrauder, when you keep for private use what you were given for distribution? When someone strips a man of his clothes we call him a thief. And one who might clothe the naked and does not–should not he be given the same name? The bread in your hoard belongs to the hungry; the cloak in your wardrobe belongs to the naked; the shoes you let rot belong to the barefoot; the money in your vaults belongs to the destitute. All you might help and do not–to all these you are doing wrong.”
St. John Chrysostom (c. 349-407)
“I am often reproached for continually attacking the rich. Yes, because the rich are continually attacking the poor. But those I attack are not the rich as such, only those who misuse their wealth. I point out constantly that those I accuse are not the rich, but the rapacious; wealth is one thing, covetousness another. Learn to distinguish.”
“Tell me, how is it that you are rich? From whom did you receive your wealth? And he, whom did he receive it from? From his grandfather, you say, from his father. By climbing this genealogical tree are you able to show the justice of this possession? Of course you cannot; rather its beginning and root have necessarily come out of injustice.”
“Do not say ‘I am spending what is mine; I am enjoying what is mine.’ In reality it is not yours but another’s.”
St. Jerome (on Jesus in Luke 16:9)
“And he very rightly said, “money of injustice,” for all the riches come from injustice. Unless one person has lost, another cannot find. Therefore I believe that the popular proverb is very true: “The rich person is either an unjust person or the heir of one.”
“You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his.”
“God willed that this earth should be the common possession of all and he offered its fruits to all. But avarice distributed the rights of possession.”
“Assisting the needy is justice.”
PAPAL ENCYCLICALS & EXHORTATIONS
Rerum novarum (Leo XIII)
“In any case we clearly see, and on this there is general agreement, that some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class: for the ancient workingmen’s guilds were abolished in the last century, and no other protective organization too their place.
Public institutions and the laws set aside the ancient religion. Hence, by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hardheartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition. The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men. To this must be added that the hiring of labor and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.” (no. 3)
“Let it be granted, then, that, as a rule, workman and employer should make free agreements, and in particular should freely agree as to wages; nevertheless, there is a dictate of nature more imperious and more ancient than any bargain between man and man…If through necessity of fear of a worse evil, the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will give him no better, he is the victim of force and injustice.” (no. 34)
(It should be noted, as well, that Rerum novarum also defends private property and makes a harsh, and just, criticism of authoritarian socialism; but the Church did, and still does, misinterpret what genuine socialism [worker ownership of the means of production in a meaningful way] and communism [the condition of a classless, stateless society] actually are.)
Quadrogesimo Anno (Pius XI)
“As We have already indicated, following in the footsteps of Our Predecessor, it will be impossible to put these principles into practice unless the non-owning workers through industry and thrift advance to the state of possessing some little property. But except from pay for work, from what source can a man who has nothing else but work from which to obtain food and the necessaries of life set anything aside for himself through practicing frugality? Let us, therefore, explaining and developing wherever necessary Leo XIII’s teachings and precepts, take up this question of wages and salaries which he called one ‘of very great importance.’” (no. 63)
“We consider it more advisable, however, in the present condition of human society that, so far as is possible, the work-contract be somewhat modified by a partnership-contract, as is already being done in various ways and with no small advantage to workers and owners. Workers and other employees thus become sharers in ownership or management or participate in some fashion in the profits received.” (no. 65)
“The just amount of pay, however, must be calculated not on a single basis but on several, as Leo XIII already wisely declared in these words: ‘To establish a rule of pay in accord with justice, many factors must be taken into account.’” (no. 66)
“It is obvious that, as in the case of ownership, so in the case of work, especially work hired out to others, there is a social aspect also to be considered in addition to the personal or individual aspect. For man’s productive effort cannot yield its fruits unless a truly social and organic body exists, unless a social and juridical order watches over the exercise of work, unless the various occupations, being interdependent, cooperate with and mutually complete one another, and, what is still more important, unless mind, material things, and work combine and form as it were a single whole. Therefore, where the social and individual nature of work is neglected, it will be impossible to evaluate work justly and pay it according to justice.” (no. 69)
“In the first place, the worker must be paid a wage sufficient to support him and his family. That the rest of the family should also contribute to the common support, according to the capacity of each, is certainly right, as can be observed especially in the families of farmers, but also in the families of many craftsmen and small shopkeepers. But to abuse the years of childhood and the limited strength of women is grossly wrong. Mothers, concentrating on household duties, should work primarily in the home or in its immediate vicinity. It is an intolerable abuse, and to be abolished at all cost, for mothers on account of the father’s low wage to be forced to engage in gainful occupations outside the home to the neglect of their proper cares and duties, especially the training of children…” (no. 71)
“Lastly, the amount of the pay must be adjusted to the public economic good. We have shown above how much it helps the common good for workers and other employees, by setting aside some part of their income which remains after necessary expenditures, to attain gradually to the possession of a moderate amount of wealth. But another point, scarcely less important, and especially vital in our times, must not be overlooked: namely, that the opportunity to work be provided to those who are able and willing to work…” (no. 74)
“Important indeed have the changes been which both the economic system and Socialism have undergone since Leo XIII’s time.” (no. 99)
[Here it is quite obvious the Church is taking a more open position toward socialism]
“The ultimate consequences of the individualist spirit in economic life are those which you yourselves, Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, see and deplore: Free competition has destroyed itself; economic dictatorship has supplanted the free market; unbridled ambition for power has likewise succeeded greed for gain; all economic life has become tragically hard, inexorable, and cruel.” (no. 109)
Populorum progressio (Pope Paul VI)
“If certain landed estates impede the general prosperity because they are extensive, unused or poorly used, or because they bring hardship to peoples or are detrimental to the interests of the country, the common good sometimes demands their expropriation.” (no. 24)
“However, certain concepts have somehow arisen out of these new conditions and insinuated themselves into the fabric of human society. These concepts present profit as the chief spur to economic progress, free competition as the guiding norm of economics, and private ownership of the means of production as an absolute right, having no limits nor concomitant social obligations
This unbridled liberalism paves the way for a particular type of tyranny, rightly condemned by Our predecessor Pius XI, for it results in the ‘international imperialism of money.’
Such improper manipulations of economic forces can never be condemned enough; let it be said once again that economics is supposed to be in the service of man.
But if it is true that a type of capitalism, as it is commonly called, has given rise to hardships, unjust practices, and fratricidal conflicts that persist to this day, it would be a mistake to attribute these evils to the rise of industrialization itself, for they really derive from the pernicious economic concepts that grew up along with it. We must in all fairness acknowledge the vital role played by labor systemization and industrial organization in the task of development.” (no. 26)
Evangelii gaudium (Pope Francis)
“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills… A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which has taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits.”