Edmund Burke: Make wealth your slave, or it will enslave you!

“If wealth is the obedient and laborious slave of virtue and of public honor, then wealth is in its place and has its use, but if this order is changed, and honor is to be sacrificed to the conservation of riches, riches — which have neither eyes nor hands, nor anything truly vital in them — cannot long survive the being of vivifying power, their legitimate masters and their potent protectors. If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free; if our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.”

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Irish stateman in Day’s Collacon compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 1013.

Burke makes it clear that there’s no middle ground with wealth. In his thinking, we can’t hold on to it (conserve it) without it ruining us (cf. 1 Timothy 6:9-10). So what must those who possess wealth do? We must command wealth, that is, make it our slave. If we don’t, it will enslave us.

The paradox of wealth, as we have seen in recent days, is that it is often the fruit of faithful stewardship, but it can cause even the most faithful steward to stumble. Lest we trip! We are commanded to enjoy it, do good with it, be generous and ready to share it (cf. 1 Timothy 6:17-19), for when we do, we store up treasures in heaven and take hold of real life!

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