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St Augustine : Augustinian parish, Congo Africa
Augustinian parish,
Congo
Africa

2. Poverty and Wealth.

The Augustinian perspective on poverty and wealth does not remain merely on the level of awareness of social circumstances and solidarity with the poorest people.

Augustine frequently invited his listeners to discern the causes of this situation. He openly criticised what today we would call "materialism" and consumer society.

Although they are worth less than interior riches, the goods and wealth of this world are not bad, Augustine proclaimed.
 
They are good, but they can make human beings neither good nor happy.
 
Material goods are, on the other hand, extraordinarily dangerous, because they lead to arrogance and avarice. Avarice is the worm of wealth. It is very difficult for one who is rich not also to be arrogant. -- Sermon 39: 4
 
Avarice corrupts the human heart. We do not only use material goods. We allow ourselves to be enslaved by them, and they induce us to betray the love of God and one another. -- See Sermon 50: 5-8; Sermon 61: 2; Sermon 177: 3ss; Sermon 162: 3
 
From an Augustinian perspective, we could say that the problem is not in being rich, but rather in wanting to be rich.
 
The problem is a love of property and objects that leads people to forget God. It rejects poor people and is incapable of sharing.
 
It is capable of doing anything in order to earn and to accumulate wealth. -- See Sermon 39: 3; Sermon 61: 10; Sermon 14: 4, Sermon 85; Sermon 86
 
This is radically opposed to the reign of God, in which the poor people have first place, as in the story by Jesus about the hungry Lazarus and the rich man at the table filled with food. God does not listen to the rich man because the rich man did not listen to the poor and hungry Lazarus.
 
The rich man rejected Lazarus and ignored the warnings of the prophets in the Bible. He did not want to share material goods and so neither will he share happiness in heaven, comments Augustine. -- See Sermon 41: 4ss; Sermon 367: 2

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