“When someone steals a person’s clothes, we call him a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to those who need it; the shoes rotting in your closet to the one who has no shoes. The money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.” – Basil of Caesarea
Kyril and I read this as part of our morning prayer today. It stopped me dead in my tracks as I read it. A rather challenging word from a 4th century father of the church. It is as applicable in our day as in his.
Those of my friends who embrace the thought that government does not have a role to play in caring for the poor of our country, and insist that it is the Church’s job. You do realize that you and I are the Church? Basil calls us thieves to our faces. For as long as there is poor in the land, and you and I have extra money, clothing, food, a spare room, etc, how can we not be moved to do all we can? How do we allow our churches to have a small benevolence fund available only for members? How do we not stand up in our congregations and challenge the traditional views relating to buildings and programs, while the poor, homeless, hungry, unemployed, abused and hopeless stand outside looking in on us.
When I read this, I not only questioned my own life and the priorities of the Church, but also the life of the society I am a part of. Here in America we consider our country to be “a city on a hill” as politicians like Ronald Reagan propose. We consider ourselves to be the greatest civilization to date on this globe. Some demand that we are a Christian nation. Basil calls us thieves!
When I consider that as the richest country in the world our thirst for cheap goods virtually enslaves portions of our world, while our discarded computer waste pollutes countries and lands …. When I consider that our businesses and government refuse to take responsibility for our major role in global climate change, while claiming it will damage our economy … When I consider that we have a government that allies itself with wall street by bailing out the rich, while homelessness, joblessness and foreclosures increase in our own country …. When I consider the greed and power wrapped up in our political, economic and social systems … There is no doubt that Basil cries out as a prophet against us! Not only does he speak to my own (and your) indifference, and the priorities of the Church but also against America, our system of economics, government and our very way of life.
When so-called freedom creates poverty here and abroad, are we truly free? Are we not thieves?
Lord have mercy on us.
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