We’re still on poverty, for and against.
1 Now that these things have been seen, it is not difficult to answer the foregoing arguments by which poverty is attacked.
2 Although there is naturally present in man a desire to gather the things necessary for life, as the first argument suggested, it is not, however, such that every man must be occupied with this work. Indeed, not even among the bees do all have the same function; rather, some gather honey, others build their homes out of wax, while the rulers are not occupied with these works. And the same should hold in the case of man.
In fact, since many things are needed for man’s life, for which one man could not suffice of himself, it is necessary for different jobs to be done by different people. For some should be farmers, some caretakers of animals, some builders, and so on for the other tasks. And since the life of man requires not only corporeal but, even more, spiritual goods, it is also necessary for some men to devote their time to spiritual things, for the betterment of others; and these must be freed from concern over temporal matters. Now, this division of various tasks among different persons is done by divine providence, inasmuch as some people are more inclined to one kind of work than to another.
Notes This was the original purpose of universities, now long since lost.
3 In this way, then, it is clear that those who abandon temporal things do not take away from themselves their life support, as the second argument implies. For there remains with them a good expectation of supporting their lives, either from their own labors, or from the benefactions of others, whether they take them as common possessions or for daily need. Thus, indeed, “what we can do through our friends, we do by ourselves, in a sense,” as the Philosopher says [Ethics III, 3], and so, what is possessed by friends is possessed by us, in a way.
4 Moreover, there should be mutual friendship among men, in accord with which they assist each other either in spiritual or in earthly functions. Of course, it is a greater thing to help another in spiritual matters than in temporal affairs, as much greater as spiritual things are more important than temporal ones, and more necessary for the attainment of the end which is beatitude. Hence, he who gives up, through voluntary poverty, the possibility of succoring others in temporal things, so that he may acquire spiritual goods whereby he may more beneficially help others, he does not work against the good of human society, as the third argument concludes.
5 It is clear from things said earlier that riches are a definite good for man, when they are ordered to the good of reason, though not in themselves. Hence, nothing prevents poverty from being a greater good, provided one is ordered to a more perfect good by it. And thus, the fourth argument is answered.
6 And since neither riches, nor poverty, nor any external thing is in itself man’s good, but they are only so as they are ordered to the good of reason, nothing prevents a vice from arising out of any of them, when they do not come within man’s use in accord with the rule of reason. Yet they are not to be judged evil in themselves; rather, the use of them may be evil. And so, neither is poverty to be cast aside because of certain vices which may be at times occasioned by it, as the fifth argument tried to show.
7 Hence, we must consider that the mean of virtue is not taken according to the amount of exterior goods that come into use, but according to the rule of reason. So, it sometimes happens that what is excessive in relation to the quantity of an external thing may be moderate in relation to the rule of reason. For no one inclines to greater things than does the magnanimous man; nor is there anyone who surpasses in greatness of expenditures the magnificent man. So, they adhere to a mean that does not consist in the amount of expense, or anything like that, but in so far as they neither exceed the rule of reason, nor fall short of it.
Indeed, this rule measures not only the size of a thing that is used, but also the circumstances of the person, and his intention, the fitness of place and time, and other such things that are necessary in acts of virtue. So, no one runs counter to virtue through voluntary poverty, even if he abandons everything. Nor does he do this wastefully, since he does it with a proper end, and with due attention to other circumstances. For it is a greater thing to risk one’s life, which, of course, a person may do under the virtue of fortitude if he observes the proper circumstances, than to abandon all his goods for a due end. And so, the sixth argument is answered.
8 What is suggested on the basis of the words of Solomon is not to the contrary. For it is evident that he speaks of forced poverty, which is often the occasion for thievery.