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St Mark the Monk, On Wealth

April 15, 2010

[The Lord] denounces those who have been enriched by God with various benefits and advantages, but who are without mercy and compassion, saying, “Woe to you who are rich, because you have received your consolation” (Lk 6:24). Truly, for us wealth consists of the various gifts that we have received from God. Woe to us, however, because we have implored God and have often been shown mercy, but when we ourselves have been implored, we have shown no one mercy, but have withheld our consolation.

What we have said about the wealthy was not meant as an accusation against everyone who is well off, for there are those among the wealthy who manage their wealth properly and who observe the will of God, who has given them their wealth. They have received a hundredfold in this age, as it is written (Mark 10:30), as did blessed Abraham and righteous Job…. But we do reproach those of avaricious character who turn their backs on God’s gifts, whether these take the form of money or of various acts of compassion, and who refuse to show mercy towards their neighbor. It is not possessions given by the Lord that harm the possessor; rather, it is the greed that comes with possessions that brings harm, and heartlessness is the mother of greed. Those who are well grounded in the faith entirely avoid heartlessness and greed because they have completely renounced present things, not because they thoughtlessly hate God’s creation but because they have put their faith in Christ, who commands their renunciation. From him they receive what they need each day.

A person can, then, even without wealth, be a rich person, whether in speech or understanding or any sort of attachment, if he greedily hangs on to those things that are freely granted in common to everyone. One receives in order to share with someone else who has nothing. If someone is disposed to act unmercifully towards his neighbor, he will receive in addition the “woe” that the Lord pronounced because he has already received his consolation (Lk 6:24). Saint James the Apostle also says something similar to this when he says to rich people of this sort: “Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that you have coming” (Jas 5:1). When he commands us to weep and wail, he is urging us to repent. Aware that we have little control over the passion for riches, he says, “Your riches have rotted away” (Jas 5:2), that is to say, “Your riches are useless since you have not shared them with others.”

From Mark the Monk, “Counsels on the Spiritual Life,” trans. Tim Vivian (SVS: 2009), pp. 151-2.

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