January 11, 2012

Can Anyone Trace the Source of This Quote By St. John Chrysostom?

A few times over the past couple of months I have been asked by my readers to either post or trace the origins of the quote below by St. John Chrysostom. Reading the quote, one could easily make St. John sound like a Tea Party Republican. In fact, if one Google's this quote one will see that this quote is quoted in just this way many times on various conservative websites. The only problem is that when one Google's this quote, an original source never comes up from the works of St. John. The only source that is given is a book titled On Living Simply, which is a book of quotes by Chrysostom compiled by Robert Van De Weyer, an author who has published various books of quotes by spiritual leaders of various religions and sifts out the ones that apply to 20th century life. I have not researched this issue for more than a few hours so I may be wrong, but I am beginning to think the quote is not authentic. Since I have little time to do the research for this, I am asking my readers, if they want, to do the research and leave in the comment section below the original source for this quote (or email me privately and I will post it). It should be noted that I have no political agenda, as I care little about politics and do not consider myself to fall neither in the category of liberal nor that of conservative (I despise both categories), but I do have a pet peeve when people quote Scripture or the Church Fathers out of context to fit their political agendas. The context is all I seek. Your help is appreciated. The quote is below:

Should we look to kings and princes to put right the inequalities between rich and poor? Should we require soldiers to come and seize the rich person’s gold, and distribute it among his destitute neighbors? Should we beg the Emperor to impose a tax on the rich so great that it reduces them to the level of the poor, and then to share the proceeds of that tax among everyone? Equality imposed by force would achieve nothing, and do much harm. Those who combined both cruel hearts and sharp minds would soon find ways of making themselves rich again. Worse still, the rich - whose gold was taken away - would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor - who received the gold from the hands of soldiers - would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would have prompted the gift. Far from bringing moral benefit to society, it would actually do moral harm. Material justice cannot be accomplished by compulsion, a change of heart will not follow. The only way to achieve true justice is to change people’s hearts first—and then they will joyfully share their wealth.

Read also: St. John Chrysostom On Poverty and Wealth