Justifying Savings but not the Pursuit of Wealth: Contradictions, Tensions and Accommodations in Early Patristic Texts
In comparison to an advanced agrarian society like that of Roman Palestine, the highly urbanized environments of the Eastern Mediterranean provided new opportunities for capital formation that secured the social status of the elites, often to the detriment of the economically worse off. In this respect, the savings of the wealthy could embody a spiritual meaning if they proved their intrinsic value as the material infrastructure of the new communities. Their use could be transformed through benevolent practices, thus facilitating social cohesion among the faithful. This chapter focuses on early patristic contributions (mainly of the so-called “Apostolic Fathers” and Clement of Alexandria) to resolving the dilemma of social antagonisms through the proper use of surplus income in financial and material terms.