More on the Christian perspective on poverty

More on the Christian perspective on poverty:

Jacobean attitudes to poverty and wealth were based on biblical teaching. The key priority was not to set one's heart on worldly riches, but to focus on storing up spiritual riches:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. TNIV Matthew 6:19-21

Although the Bible recognised the material needs of human life, there was a strong ideal that poverty was a positive state. Being poor on earth was considered better than having riches:

  • A prosperous person might be diverted from seeking salvation by the cares of his or her wealth
  • However, the simplicity of a poor person's lifestyle meant they were more likely (in theory) to be concerned with the values of heaven. Poor people - and particularly those who voluntarily embraced a simple life - were less contaminated by materialism and the desire for the pleasures of this world. They were believed to be in a state that made it easier to concentrate on the life of the soul and virtue
  • It was widely believed that Jesus and the disciples had been poor. When Saint Bernard founded the first monasteries and Saint Francis founded the friars, the ideal of poverty was central to their vision. Those in religious orders swore oaths of poverty, chastity and obedience.
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