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    Jan Steen, The Miser, oil on panel, 1600s

    On Hoarding Money

    When Christ says “Sell all you have, give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven,” he pinches us in a sore place.

    By William Penn

    February 5, 2023
    • Merhawit Girmay

      What a profound and convicting essay on hoarding wealth and the damage it does to a soul. It also calls me to re-examine my relationship with money and how I view this stewardship that God has given me. Is it hoarded for fear of loss or generously given from a sense of peace that my Father knows what I need? Reading this essay, I was reminded of 1 Timothy 6:10, which reads, "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." When you hoard your wealth, often believing it can provide security or significance, it does neither. Instead, it makes you afraid, "more miserable than the poor" they dread to be. It's a spiritual poverty that suppresses truth and what is good, leading to constant fear, unsettledness, and "many sorrow." At that point, we must ask ourselves, is it worth it?

    • carol mclean

      From what I read on capitalism in your newsletter, I disagree, there is a worker shortage and even before that, people would not work for a less than honest wage. Also, we have child labor laws, young children are not permitted to work, and there are laws that regulate the hours of a worker who is 16-years old. You need to become aware of the present laws that govern the market place.

    Which leads to the last and basest part of covetousness, which is yet the most sordid, to wit, hoarding up, or keeping money unprofitably, both to others and themselves too. This is Solomon’s miser, that makes himself rich, and hath nothing (Prov. 13:7): a great sin in the sight of God. He complained of such as had stored up the labours of the poor in their houses; he calls it their spoils, and it is a grinding of the poor, because they see it not again. But he blesseth those that consider the poor, and commandeth every one, to open freely to his brother that is in need (Psalm 41:1; Deut. 15:7, 8); not only he that is spiritually, but naturally so; and not to withhold his gift from the poor. The apostle chargeth Timothy, in the sight of God, and before Jesus Christ, that “he fail not to charge them that are rich in this world, that they trust not in their uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth liberally; and that they do good with them, that they may be rich in good works” (1 Tim. 6:17, 18). Riches are apt to corrupt; and that which keeps them sweet and best is charity: he that uses them not gets them not for the end for which they are given, but loves them for themselves, and not their service. The miser is poor in his wealth: he wants for fear of spending; and increases his fear with his hope, which is his gain; and so tortures himself with his pleasure; the most like to the man that hid his talent in a napkin, of all others, for this man’s talents are hid in his bags out of sight, in vaults, under boards, behind wainscots: else upon bonds and mortgages, growing but as underground; for it is good to none.

    The covetous man hates all useful arts and sciences as vain, lest they should cost him something the learning: wherefore ingenuity has no more place in his mind than in his pocket. He lets houses fall, to prevent the charge of repairs: and for his spare diet, plain clothes, and mean furniture, he would place them to the account of moderation. O monster of a man! that can take up the cross for covetousness, and not for Christ.

    Jan Steen, The Miser, oil on panel, 1600s

    Jan Steen, The Miser, oil on panel, 1600s.

    But he pretends negatively to some religion too; for he always rails at prodigality, the better to cover his avarice. If you would bestow a box of spikenard on a good man’s head; to save money, and to seem righteous, he tells you of the poor: but if the poor come, he excuses his want of charity with the unworthiness of the object, or the causes of his poverty, or that he can bestow his money upon those that deserve it better; who rarely opens his purse till quarter-day for fear of losing it.

    But he is more miserable than the poorest; for he enjoys not what he yet fears to lose; they fear not what they do not enjoy. Thus is he poor by overvaluing his wealth: but he is wretched that hungers with money in a cook’s shop: yet having made a god of his gold, who knows, but he thinks it unnatural to eat what he worships?

    But, which aggravates this sin, I have myself once known some, that to get money have wearied themselves into the grave; and to be true to their principle, when sick would not spare a fee to a doctor, to help the poor slave to live; and so died to save charges: a constancy that canonizes them martyrs for money.

    But now let us see what instances the Scripture will give us in reproof of the sordid hoarders and hiders of money. A good-like young man came to Christ, and inquired the way to eternal life: Christ told him, he knew the commandments: he replied, he had kept them from his youth: it seems he was no loose person, and indeed such are usually not so, to save charges. And “yet lackest thou one thing,” saith Christ; “sell all, distribute it to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow Me” (Matt. 19:20, 21). It seems Christ pinched him in the sore place; He hit the mark, and struck him to the heart: who knew his heart; by this He tried how well he had kept the commandment, “To love God above all.” It was said, the young man was very sorrowful, and went his way; and the reason which is given is, that he was very rich. The tides met, money and eternal life: contrary desires: but which prevailed? Alas! his riches. But what said Christ to this? How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! He adds, “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:23, 24) that is, such a rich man, to wit, a covetous rich man, to whom it is hard to do good with what he has: it is more than a miracle: O who then would be rich and covetous! It was upon these rich men that Christ pronounced his woe, saying, “Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation here” (Luke 6:24). What! none in the heavens? No, unless you become willing to be poor men, can resign all, live loose to the world, have it at arm’s end, yea, under foot; a servant, and not a master.

    From William Penn No Cross, No Crown (London: Harvey & Darton, 1842), Chapter 13.

    Contributed By WilliamPenn William Penn

    William Penn (1644–1718) was a writer, religious thinker, Quaker, and colonist.

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