Christian Communism – the Church Fathers on Poverty and Oppression

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And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. – Acts 2:42-47, KJV


And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. – Acts 4:31, 32, KJV
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CHRISTIAN COMMUNISM

Property is theft.

– St. Basil the Great

“When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”
– St. Gregory the Great

We who share one mind and soul obviously have no misgivings about community in property.

– Tertullian

All things belong to God, who is our Father and the father of all things. We are all of the same family; all of us are brothers. And among brothers it is best and most equal that all inherit equal portions.

– St. Gregory of Nyssa

Share everything with your brother. Do not say “it is private property.” If you share what is everlasting, you should be willing to share that much more the things that do not last.

– the Didache

Give a loaf of bread yourself; someone else can give a cup of wine, and another clothes. In this way one man’s property is relieved by your joint effort.

– St. Gregory of Nyssa

The rich take what belongs to everyone, and claim that they have the right to own it, to monopolize it.

– St. Basil the Great

AGAINST THE OPPRESSORS OF THE POOR

I am criticized often for my continual attacks on the rich. Yes: because the rich continually attack the poor.
– St. John Chrysostom

You a have thousand excuse for robbing your brother. “His house stands in my light,” you say; or “Only tramps go there.” You force them to move…
– St. John Chrysostom

It isn’t because the affluent are unable to provide food easily that men go hungry; it is because the affluent are cruel and inhuman…Every day the Church here feeds 3,000 people. Besides this, the Church daily helps provide food and clothes for prisoners, the hospitalized, pilgrims, cripples, churchmen, and others. If only ten people were willing to do this, there wouldn’t be a single poor man left in town.
– St. John Chrysostom

Those who oppress the poor must know that there sentence is heavier because of those they try to hurt. The more they press their power over these wretched lives, the more terrible their future condemnation and punishment will be.
– St. Isidore

Some think that the Old Testament is stricter than the New, but they judge wrongly; they are fooling themselves. The Old Law did not punish the desire to hold on to wealth; it punished theft. But now the rich man is not condemned for taking the property of others; rather, he is condemned for not giving his property away.
– St. Gregory the Great

You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.
– St. Ambrose

God has ordered all things to be produced so that there should be food in common for all, and that the earth should be the common possession of all. Nature, therefore, has produced a common right for all, but greed has made it a right for few.
– St. Ambrose

What keeps you from giving now? Isn’t the poor man there? Aren’t your own warehouses full? Isn’t the reward promised? The command is clear: the hungry man is dying now, the naked man is freezing now, the man in debt is beaten now- and you want him to wait until tomorrow? “I am not doing any harm,” you say. “I just want to keep what I own, that’s all.” Your own! … You are like someone who sits down in a theater and keeps every one else away, saying what is there for everyone’s use is his own. … If everyone took only what he needed and gave the rest to those in need, there would be no such thing a rich and poor. After all, didn’t you come into this life naked? And won’t you return to the earth naked?
– St. Basil the Great

Who is the greedy man? One for whom plenty does not suffice. Who defrauds others? One who keeps for himself what belongs to everyone. Aren’t you greedy, don’t you defraud, when you keep for yourself what was given to give away? When someone steals a man’s clothes, we call him a thief. Shouldn’t we give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not?
– St. Basil the Great

The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry person; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the person who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the person with no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help.
– St. Basil the Great

REBUKE THE OPPRESSOR (Isaiah 1:17, NKJV)
You may say “words are alright; but gold is better.” Talking to you is like talking to a lustful man about chastity: when one says something against him keeping a mistress, the mention of her name only goes to heat up his lust. How can I make you realize the misery of the poor? How can I make you understand that your wealth comes from their weeping?
– St. Basil the Great

The bread which the rich eat belongs to others more than them. They live on stolen goods. What they pay comes from what they have seized….You have gold dug up from mines, only to re-bury it. And how many lives are buried with it! And this wealth is kept for whom? For your heir, who waits idly to receive it….it is not the poor who are cursed, but the rich. Scripture says of the rich, not of the poor, that the man who increases the price of corn will be cursed….who is the wise man? The one who shows compassion on the poor, who sees the poor as natural members of his family.
– St. Ambrose

It is the poor who mine gold, though they are denied gold; they are forced to work for what they cannot keep.
– St. Ambrose

You have the power to save so many from death, but you do not care to do so- and the price of the ring on your hand could save the lives of a multitude!
– St. Ambrose

Wealth, which lead the men the wrong way so often, is seen less for its own qualities than for the human misery it stands for. The large rooms of which you are so proud are in fact your shame. They are big enough to hold crowds- and also big enough to shut out the voice of the poor. True, even if the voice were heard it would be ignored….the poor man cries before your house, and you pay no attention. There is your brother naked and crying! And you stand confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering.
– St. Ambrose

THE CHURCH IS THE CHURCH OF THE POOR
The Lord ate from a common bowl, and asked his disciples to sit on the grass. He washed their feet with a towel wrapped around his waist- He, who is the Lord of the universe! He drank water from a jar of earthenware, with the Samaritan woman. Christ made use his aim, not extravagance.
– St. Clement

When the Son of Man comes in majesty, when he sits on the throne of glory, when all people are gathered and he divides the good from the bad, what praise will he give those on his right hand? He will praise them only for works of kindness and charity; he will hold them as done for himself. For the One who made our nature his own did not hold himself back in any way from the most simple human thing. And what curse will there be for those on his left hand? Only that they neglected love; that they were inhumanly harsh and denied mercy to the oppressed. It is though there were no other virtues with the first group, and as though there were no other sins than those of the other.
– Pope St. Leo the Great

Let us abandon luxury, we will not regret it.
– Tertullian

The price of the Kingdom is the food you give to those who need it.
– Pope St. Leo the Great

Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead.
– St. John Chrysostom

We are not to throw away things that can benefit our neighbor. Goods are called good because they can be used for good. They are instruments of good in the hands of those who use them properly.
– St. Clement

Houses of hospitality must be built for the poor in every city of every diocese.
– The Council of Nicea

Every family should have a room where Christ is welcome in the person of the hungry and thirsty stranger.
– St. John Chrysostom

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