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Distribution of Goods According to Need

Friday, July 12, 2024
Chapter 34

It is written: "Distribution was made as each had need (Acts 4:35)." By this we do not imply that there should be favoritism--God forbid--but rather consideration for weaknesses. Whoever needs less should thank God and not be distressed, but those who need more should feel humble because of their weakness, not self-important because of the kindness shown them. In this way all the members will be at peace. First and foremost, there must be no word or sign of the evil of grumbling, no manifestation of it for any reason at all. If, however, anyone is caught grumbling, let them undergo more severe discipline.

Destitution and deprivation are not monastic virtues. Benedict immediately follows the chapter on the pitfalls of private ownership with a chapter insisting that people be given what they need to get through life. Benedictine spirituality is not based on a military model of conformity. Pianists need pianos; writers need computers; principals need to go to meetings; administrators need to get away from the group every once in a while, workers need places to work, the sick need special kinds of food, people with bad backs need the proper kinds of beds. Benedictine spirituality says get them and don't notice the differences; get them and don't count the cost; get them and don't complain about it. Just thank God that your own needs have yet to reach the level of such a burden.

It's an important chapter in a world where poverty is clearly an evil and not to be spiritualized while the children of the earth die with bloated stomachs. The person whose spirituality is fed by the Rule of Benedict would be acutely concerned about that, painfully disturbed about that as was Benedict. The Benedictine spirit would not rest, in fact, until the imbalance was righted and the needs were met.