Jesus said, if you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.
– Matthew 19.21 (JB)
Those of us fortunate in worldly goods need to be aware of the suffering that poverty imposes on much of humanity. All that we have, spiritual or material, belongs to God and should be used in God’s service.
Hundreds of millions of people live in privation hard to imagine here in America. As we seek social justice, we find that physical need is often the root of lawlessness, alienation, oppression, and prejudice.
We have seen that peace stands on a precarious footing so long as there is unrelieved poverty and subjection. Subjection, poverty, injustice, and war are closely allied. This situation demands sweeping political and economic changes; and we are convinced that the hope of freedom does not lie in violence, which is at its root immoral, but in such changes as may be brought about by fellowship and mutual service.
– London Yearly Meeting Epistle, 1937
In the United States millions of people live in poverty without adequate food, shelter, clothing, and medical care; and they are often shamed by the very fact that they need help. Our concern for equality and justice encourages our support of government policies that might alleviate poverty and our involvement in private efforts to extend direct, personal help to friends and neighbors.
Let us reflect on our own participation in an oppressive economic system, remain sensitive to the potentials for violence in the ways we acquire and use material wealth, and consider whether we are gathering more than we need to live examined, committed lives. Accumulation of wealth beyond prudent requirements in a world of dire need may pose a threat to the life of the Spirit. It often leads to an attachment to financial reserves, which may obscure the call to bind up the wounds of the afflicted and to look to God for our true security.
Our gracious Creator cares and provides for all his creatures. His tender mercies are over all his works; and so far as his love influences our minds, so far we become interested in his workmanship and feel a desire to take hold of every opportunity to lessen the distresses of the afflicted and increase the happiness of the creation. Here we have a prospect of one common interest from which our own is inseparable, that to turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives.
– John Woolman, "A Plea for the Poor," 1763
We should seek opportunities to make a positive impact on society by supporting socially responsible methods and institutions and avoiding those that oppress others and block a more equitable distribution of wealth. We who have at our disposal or under our direction funds for investment should avoid projects, no matter how rewarding, that might serve anti-social or immoral ends. We should also avoid the illusory benefits of highly speculative schemes or practices that seem, like gambling, to promise something for nothing. Especially we should avoid activities, whether involving money or work, that can bring benefit to us by hurting someone else.