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§ 106. Voluntary Poverty.

The recommendation of voluntary poverty was based on a literal interpretation of the Lord’s advice to the rich young ruler, who had kept all the commandments from his youth up: "If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me."719719    Matt. 19:21.19 To this were added the actual examples of the poverty of Christ and his apostles, and the community of goods in the first Christian church at Jerusalem. Many Christians, not of the ascetics only, but also of the clergy, like Cyprian, accordingly gave up all their property at their conversion, for the benefit of the poor. The later monastic societies sought to represent in their community of goods the original equality and the perfect brotherhood of men.

Yet on the other hand, we meet with more moderate views. Clement of Alexandria, for example, in a special treatise on the right use of wealth,720720    Τίς ὁ σωζόμενος πλούσιος.20 observes, that the Saviour forbade not so much the possession of earthly property, as the love of it and desire for it; and that it is possible to retain the latter, even though the possession itself be renounced. The earthly, says he, is a material and a means for doing good, and the unequal distribution of property is a divine provision for the exercise of Christian love and beneficence. The true riches are the virtue, which can and should maintain itself under all outward conditions; the false are the mere outward possession, which comes and goes.

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