Gifts to the Rich

“One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich – both come to poverty” (Pr 22:16)


“Next is the matter of our not craving to be rich. For as soon as that lust for gain takes hold of us, it is certain that we will become thieves; it cannot be otherwise.”

“Let us consider for a moment who the rich are: insatiable men who can never be satisfied and who are much more difficult to be content than the poor. If we were to make a comparison between the rich and the poor, we would find that just as there are some who are tormented and grieve, and who are led to steal, and engage in many adverse practices, so the majority are content to accept what God has given them and follow their course. But when we come to the rich, as for kings and princes, we find that they are so inflamed and covetous for the goods of this world that we cannot satisfy them; indeed, they are almost grieved if the sun shines on the poor. In brief, we see that the majority of the rich would not even be satisfied had God given them the whole earth to possess. For, as I have said, they are still jealous that the poor have a common ray of light, and that they drink water, and work, and even succeed better than the rich [in happiness]… And although he draws their sweat and blood, it seems to him that when they eat at his expense they are wringing him of his very intestines and bowels. And unfortunately, this parsimony, or rather brutal cruelty on the part of the rich, is far too common.”

“And let those who enjoy the vogue, who have money in their purses, be especially careful not to oppress the poor, for they always have their traps set. For that is what the rich do; if they see that a poor man is going under, they hurry there like hunters and immediately fall upon him, turning this way and that, and through their weaving have the poor man entrapped in the end.”

“And instead of the rich imagining that they have gained everything [by their own industry] when they have been enriched at the expense of others, let us realize that they have cut the throats of the poor and have made many widows and orphans, even though they don’t think so.”

(John Calvin: Sermon on the Eighth Commandment)