Some Christian writers thought having lots of money was a very serious problem – both because it made rich folk focus on something other than spiritual realities and because it was not just or godly for some people to be loaded when others were starving.

And so we have ancient Christian authors urging the wealthy to give away all their material possessions for a greater good and practice rigorous asceticism.  The “good” in this case was very different indeed from what was promoted in the broader Roman world — where what mattered was helping with the city’s finances and assisting those of one’s own family or socio-economic class, in exchange for acquiring a higher personal status — since for Christians involves helping the indigent.  But the personal motivation is roughly the same: it is a matter of “working out your salvation.”  That is, it is largely about one’s own well-being.

Other writers, however, argued that wealth was not itself evil or necessarily a trap, an obstacle to the good and holy life.  Righteous people could continue to enjoy their wealth while using it to good ends.  These writers urged the rich to be generous, but not to impoverish themselves.  Doing this would bring even better results both for others and themselves.  Wealthy beneficence, in this view, was a cherished Christian virtue.  As in the pagan world, this became the most popular Christian view (among the rich!), for rather obvious reasons.  The rich could stay rich so long as they didn’t care much about their riches and gave a chunk of them away for others.

What really set the early Christian view apart from the views of the broader Roman world was

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