“There are three reasons for the love of money: pleasure-seeking, vainglory, and lack of faith. And more serious than the other two is lack of faith.
“The hedonist loves money because with it he lives in luxury; the vain person because with it he can be praised; the person who lacks faith because he can hide it and keep it while in fear of hunger, or old age, or illness, or exile. He lays his hope on it rather than on God the maker and provider of the whole creation, even of the last and least of living things.
“There are four kinds of people who acquire money, the three just mentioned and the financial administrator. Obviously only he acquires it for the right reason: so that he might never run short in relieving each one’s need.”
— Maximus the Confessor, The Four Hundred Chapters on Love 3.17-19
So when was the last time you heard someone suggest that ‘financial administrators’ were reputable, virtuous human beings, let alone people who acquire money for all the ‘right reasons’? For that matter, when was the last time you heard someone suggest that the only proper acquisition of wealth was for the ceaseless outpouring of generosity upon the needs of ‘the last and least’? Luxury and celebrity, hoarding and strategically managed self-sufficiency . . . are these not the ‘virtues’ of our bureaucratic clerics of consumptive economic management? Perhaps I’m being anachronistic here, but I can’t help but wonder if Maximus’ use of ‘obviously’ implies more than a hint of polemical irony. Either way, the underly point remains poignant: money is not itself an evil, but neither is it an end; for Maximus, its true worth and genuine usefulness is made manifest in the just and compassonate relieving of needs.