“I declare that he who does not give up his surplus possessions steals from God.”
Conference of Don Bosco to the Lucca Cooperators, April 8, 1882
So, let’s be practical: one might have an income of one thousand francs and live very decently on eight hundred; the command “Give alms” applies to the two hundred which are left over.
“But what about an unforeseen need, a crop failure, a setback in business?” Are you sure you will still be alive then? And furthermore, will not God, who at this very moment takes care of you, help you all the more for having given for His sake? I say that he who does not give up his unnecessary possessions steals from God and, quoting Saint Paul, “he will not possess the Kingdom of Heaven.i
You will say: “But my house needs attention, some old outmoded furniture must be replaced!”
Well then, if you will allow me to enter your house with you now, I will see valuable decorations—a table covered with precious dinnerware over here, a carpet still in good condition over there. Could these things not be retained rather than changed? Could not the funds for redecorating walls and floors clothe many poor boys who are in dire need, though they too are brothers of Jesus Christ and temples of God? I will also see there shining silver and gold and ornaments studded with precious jewels.
“But they are heirlooms”, you will say; and my answer is: “Are you waiting for thieves to come and steal them? You are not using them nor do you need them. If you take these objects, sell them, and give the proceeds to the poor, you will be giving to Jesus Christ, and you will merit a crown in Heaven. Thus, you will not lose your possessions, nor will you be deprived of what is necessary.”
And what about that locked chest? “Oh, it is nothing”, you will say. Nothing? Let me see! Here then, are a few thousand gold Napoleons. “I am saving them for possible illness”, you say, “and besides, there is a very annoying neighbor next door; I would like to buy his property and thus add to my estate”. But, I will answer, all this is surplus; it is your duty to take that money, which at present does not help anyone, and use it the way Jesus Christ commands. Do you want to save it? By all means keep it, but listen: The devil will come, and he will cast a key from that gold to open the gates of hell for you. If you want to avoid such misfortune, do as Saint Lawrence did: Go and help the poor. By giving to them of your possessions, you put them in the hands of the angels who will make a key to open the gates of Heaven for you the day you die.
MB XV, 525-26
i Will not possess the Kingdom of God.” It is a reference to St. Paul’s words: “The unjust will not possess the Kingdom of God. Do not err;... nor thieves, nor the covetous ... nor the greedy will possess the Kingdom of God” (1 Co 6:9-10).