saving sinful why?

In C&G, and the in the LoM, there are some allusions to "saving is sinful", "wasting money is seen as correct behaviour".

What is the (possibly theological) background? I'd like to get my players to act less in a Scrooge-ish way, you know, actually spending(!) VIs and also money. They're always trying to find ways to cut expenses and have a large Covenant surplus.

I don't want to actually rob them of their fun, but some way to explain the paradigm and why you can't save ad infinitum would be very helpful. After explaining them the Mythic Europe paradigm on God (he exists, plus not believing in God would mean that you'd more or less be insane, as you have no explanation of where you come from), they've all went from stout atheists to a more ambivalent stance. Something like this I would like to have with respect to savings...

A couple of bible passages spring to mind

Matthew 6:34 So never worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."


Luke 12:16-21
16And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
18"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
20"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
21"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

The first passage from Matthew applies directly; the person who is saving is doing so in order to prepare for future needs, instead of trusting God to provide. The second passage also speaks to hoarding goods for the future, to be enjoyed later.

I think any character with a reasonable Theology score can make the argument for setting resources aside to improve your business rather than engaging in conspicuous consumption. There would be passages in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes that would support that sort of behavior. However, those observing will only see the lack of consumption, they won’ t be able to tell if it is being invested in a project (OK) saved like a miser (bad) or being donated secretly to widows and orphans (good). People being what they are, they are apt to think the worst.

Well, there are examples of saving being a "good" thing. For example, in Genesis IIRC, Joseph gets the Pharoah to store up grain during Egypt's prosperous years in order to use the stores to feed people during the coming famine years. Saving in that sort of case would not be sinful.

But miserly behavior is generally sinful because wealth is a gift from God and should be put toward some moral purpose. Of course, wealth can be used for needs (according to your station), but there is a high value placed on charity, and to the extent that someone is saving up wealth they don't need without giving it to the poor, they probably would seem sinful in the setting. Or, from another angle, what is the purpose of saving up money? To become wealthier, to rise in social rank? I may be mistaken, but I don't think in a medieval setting those would be considered appropriate praiseworthy goals.

I've always thought of it as a conspicuous consumption thing. As you mention, C&G says that merchants don't work all the time because it's the right thing to do (working on holidays and so forth is not pious) and those who do will get a bad reputation.

Magi have a different culture, among themselves. They are products of the world they are in, yet I can see them developing strange customs, especially with vis and so forth. Magi known to horde precious (mundane) resources might be the object of the desires of mundane lords and thus on the verge of breaking the Oath (interfering with mundanes). While there is a certain level of saving for a rainy day (or that Longevity Potion) I think magi should be spending a lot of what they bring in to show their level of "magical maturity". If you're a summer or autumn covenant you better have the resources to show it. If it's all hoarded and hidden, the covenant might not be treated as a powerful covenant politically. Magi who are known to have lots of vis, books, etc might be expected to help in various magical emergencies. Otherwise they'll get bad reputations in the Tribunal/Order.

Or something like that,


A little discussion on wealth, from One Corpse too Many, The Second Chronicle of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters...

I know Ellis Peters is hardly a medeaval scholar, but I think she often strikes the medeaval attitudes well. To me, this passage sums the attitude toward money quite well.

Are these actual quotes from the books? (If so, could you cite page numbers, so we can see them in context, pls?)

As mentioned above, being "miserly" is sinful. It's associated with Greed, one of the 7 Deadly Sins.

Otoh, Charity is one of the 7 Blessed Virtues ("Heavenly Virtues"? "Godly Virtues"? something). So throwing a handful of coins to the poor, or giving a beggar your good cloak, is seen as a pious act. I'm not sure that "wasting" is seen the same, if a character were to throw the same items off a bridge that would not be seen as "correct", but simply a bit daft.

(Which is why I'm curious about the specific context, and, forgive, a bit dubious about your use of quotation marks.)

Thanks for the replies so far, they're very helpful! The scripture quotes especially.

Cuchulainshound: Those are not direct quotes, just paraphrasing. I'll see if I can get some quotes up, but that have to wait until Monday. My old roleplaying group is coming to visit, so we're having a weekend full of constant gaming and drunken revelry... :smiley:

"Money should be used, not hoarded."

I found the quotes from C&G, p. 38/39.

I'll see if I can find some quotes from LoM later.

Also in City and Guild, there was the story seed where it was suggested that one of the businessmen associated to the covenant would be murdered by his wife, young lover and the young lovers animal companion. It was stated that one difficulty with attempts to bring them to justice would be popular opinion, since the wife was now spending the money as she should whereas before the husband was sinfully hoarding it.

Yep, that one is also on p. 39.

Yes, indeed.

It comes from several sources, but let's unpack some.

Let's look, first, at the crime, and sin, of withholding. Now, withholding is the sin of storing up material, rather than offering all of it for sale at once. Now, you may be thinking "Wait a second...most of the products in Europe come from agriculture, and this means that if everyone else offer their crops for sale straight after harvest, this causes a glut in the market, and any sensible man would hold his stock back until the glut is taken up, and then sell once material becomes scarce closer to the next winter." Now, that's a sin.

The idea is that if you are holding back your stock to get a better price, you are ripping off the people who buy from you. You are also driving out of business those craftsmen who depend on your materials, and so causing unemployment. So, for example, keeping back your wheat until the next winter, when the price is highest, is wrong, because it deprives people of cheap wheat (gouging them) and it drives bakers out of business.

Now, you may say "Actually that's not really how economies work..." but that's not the debate, my point is that withholding is illegal and sinful because it is believed to contribute to famine, cause unemployment, and impoverish others.

Now, from that framework, I'd like you to consider money as a -consumable good-. This is Aquinas's view, and Aquinas was a softie, compared ot the thinkers who were running the Church in 1220. Your money is -exactly- like wheat, in the sense that you aren't meant to hold it back. Holding it back is wrong because:

  • Things are meant to be used for their natural use, and to not use things for their natural use it wrong: the use of money is to spend, in the same way that the natural use of wheat is bread, not speculation on wheat prices.
  • the value of money is its intrinsic worth. You are now thinking "money doesn't have an intrinsic worth. Money is worth what people will trade for it." Aquinas disagrees with you: money is worth its face value, and doing things which mean you get less or more than the face value is wrong. This is one of the reasons usury is wrong, but its also why it is wrong to refuse to spend money until the post-harvest glut: you are getting more for your money than your money is intrinsically worth and so you are victimising others, much as people who withhold goods and charge you more are victimizing you. That is, the Roman idea that an exchange is fair if both parties think it fair isn't part of the Church's thinking, because it's possible for a conman to make you think you have a fair deal, while he takes from you more than his goods are worth.
  • refusal to spend your money causes unemployment, and unemployment causes poverty, and poverty causes death and encourages sin. If you have your money in a barrel, instead of buying a new chair, then you are preventing a carpenter from plying his trade, and a farmer from feeding him. You are directly hurting other people through your inaction, and this is wrong.
  • Now, you may be thinking "Surely I can spend my money on investments?" Well, that kind of depends on what investments you mean. You can assart land as a way of saving, for example...that's allowed, but stockpiling goods of value isn't allowed. You are allowed to spend on sumptutous goods suitable to your station, and these can sometimes serve as a store of value, but there the movement of your wealth from coin to tapestries and jewellry allows craftsmen a cut.
  • You can't, however, just spend all of your money on roads, markets, bridges and other things which might bring you money, because if you do so, you are driving into poverty the tradesmen who depend on the nobility. You have a duty to tailors, jewellers and so on.
  • Your social status is not based on your income, it is based on your spending. If you are rich, you have a duty to give a great deal of money to a braod class of friends, family, vassals and so on. If you fail to do this, these people have a right ot hate you.
1 Like

That was very interesting, and well-argued, Timothy. I'm not doubting you, but it does leave a question unanswered. I can see why, for the reasons that you gave, withholding is a crime, but what are the theological/religious reasons for its being a sin?

The reason that it is considered a sin has to do with "man's condition". That is to say that man is by nature sinful. Sinful means that he is turned inward only thinkging about himself and his own profits. The 10 Commandments exist to show us just how inward looking or sinful we really are. The Law (read 10 Commandments in this case) also shows us how short we come in being outward looking (thinking of others first). It acts in this case like a mirror reflecting or showing us just how bad (hopeless) we really are. That in turn forces us to also see that that no matter how hard we try we just can't truly change ourselves into thinking about others first all the time, everytime. This causes us to see that we can't save ourself no matter how hard we try and that we need someone else to do it for us; in this case that means Christ Jesus. Being saved means that you are in a right relationship with God and so you now consider others before yourself just like God considered mankind before Himself by sending Jesus to pay for our sin when we could not. So, it's really not saving that is the sin it is hoarding that is the sin. And the difference between saving and hoarding again goes directly back to the heart and the motivation behind the actions.

This is just a bare bones explanation, but I think I covered the basics. If it doesn't make sense then I left something out so let me know and I'll see if I can't fix what I left out.

It can be tricky to rebuild the research for three years ago, so once again I'll try from meory, and hit the books if this doesn't satisfy you.

You seem to be asking what the theological reasons are for theft being a sin, here, so I have not explained the situations as well as I'd hoped.

My point with wheat is to make clear that money is not the sort of special good that it is seen as in our culture. It's just another thing, like wool, but its a problematic thing, unlike wool, because it tends to be a focus of sin.

Withholding, in the sense of either wheat or money, allows you to get more from people by waiting until they are vulnerable. Now, in our culture that's fine except in extreme conditions, because we think money is of fluid value and that a contract is fair if consenting adults agree it is fair. The church does not agree with either of these premises of contract. They see holding your stuff back until the price rises as theft, under coercion of easily predictable, indeed inevitable, circumstances, because the money and goods cycle of Mythic Europe is agricultural. Theft is wrong. The theological point on theft being wrong starts with a commandment not to covet your neighbour's stuff, and then works out through a couple of centuries of religious thought. In this case the earliest rule to this effect is in Leviticus 25:14 "And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbor, or buyest ought of thy neighbor's hand, ye shall not oppress one another", if you go KJV, or if you'd like a modern one, "And in the business of trading goods for money, do no wrong to one another." Remember the price of things was often set by law in medieval communities. This idea of not being sharp in trading is repeated a lot, at various times, particularly in Matthew, and by Paul when he's writing to Timothy. Paul, particularly, is not a big fan of money. He's the one who gets in the crack about it being the root of all evil.

Now, I know a lot of you have heard an awful lot of prosperity gosel, in which they say "Oh no, the LOVE of money is the root of all evil." and carry on about how money itself isn't the problem, and how God wants us all to have heaps of it. Regardless as to the truth of this in terms of the will of the Divine of your choice, medieval Catholics simply do not take that line. They take the line that its as hard for a rich man to get into Heaven as it is for a camel to get through the eye of a needle (and again, I'm not in this case at all interested in debating if that should say "rope" or not.) This is why priest technically do not own anything, and so many rich guys make very sure that when they are dead they are not rich men, by giving their money to their families before death and joining monastic establishments. This softens later, under Aquinas (if you think the Church in LoM is hard core, you're right. The Church softens in its treatment of the poor, and the rich actually, after Aquinas. It does declare him a heretic in various places first, though.) and some later thinkers who, having a lot more experience with the emerging merchant classes, discover ways for men to be rich and virtuous, but back in 1220, things are not theologically easy for the rich.

Paul also has a word to James, which is dead against speculating on the future here:

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Many modern readers have the idea that people have a right to get ahead, and that systems work best when they allow people to get ahead by effort. This is in no way a medieval view. Working to become rich is, from a theological perspective, a distraction and a failure. How much you add that idea to your saga is up to you: a lot of people will go "There is no fun here." and that's a relevant view and one you need to work through in your group because the background is meant to be a place to tell interesting stories, and some people find such an alien mindset not so much interesting as confronting and confusing, because they are not used to games which play other than on an accumulative model.

Now, I, and one of the previous posters, has sent you a couple of biblical quotations, and you've batted back a couple to the contrary. I'd just like to point out that that way of thinking, direct argumentation by Biblical quote, is a very Protestant way of arguing a point. You are required, as a good Catholic, to obey the interpretations of the Bible as revealed to scholars over the centuries. Refuting that with a couple of quick verses and holding to "mistaken" beliefs based on direct quotation with flawed interpretation (by whatever yardstick the church likes) is heresy. Indeed, its pretty much the way all heresies start. You basically don't have a right to personally interpret the Bible in 1220. Doing so is dangerous, which is one of the reasons its only ever written in Latin in the west. I think that argumentation by verse and personal spiritual connection is Lutheran, but am not sure. I'm just making the point that if your players want to toe to toe it with you in this way, please point out to them that this is not how religion works in 1220: setting your opinion against the received wisdom of the Church, unless you are an emminent scholar of religion, is spiritual pride, and there really are specific demons set aside for you.

Withholding causes famine. Abetting famine's is a sin. Withholding destroys businesses, indeed if practiced by everyone it destroys communities, because basically everyone holds all of their stuff in, and as each family breaks, they sell themselves into slavery for bread, until everyone but the richest few guys are slaves. Theologically this is wrong because you have a duty to your neighbours to not do things which destroy the community, stemming in the broadest sense from Jesus mentioning you should do unto others as you would do unto yourself, but specifically coming again from Levictus, when you are told the conditions under which you can take advantage of the misery of your fellow men ehen impoverised are laid out in some detail. Basically you aren't allowed to cause the misery yourself.

1 Like

What do you mean by spiritual connection? Traditional Lutheran exegesis follows the historical grammatical method of interpretation. Also, Luther followed the tradional scholastic school when he debated. It was only when Rome tried to shut him down instead of showing him his errors that he started directing his arguments to the populace. In fact he was following the approved methods of argument and debate of his day. He was very much a man of his times.

Overall you are correct in what you are presenting as being the Church's view of excessive saving or as I called it hoarding. Especially, with the point about fair value not being as we tend to see it today and that all things have their own value in and of themselves and not just what a person tries to get for it. Incidentally, the concept that you're expressing hasn't changed in the Church's teaching.

It's the other way around. Coveting (wanting what is not yours) are the last two Commandments while theft is number 7. The Commandments flow from the preceeding ones which is why when you break any of the Commandments you break the first one. Number 2 flows out of number 1 and 3 flows from 2 and 1 and so forth.

You are precisely right about what is required to be a good Catholic and that is to follow the intrepretation as set forth by the bishops who have accepted the writings of the various scholars through the ages. And don't forget that many of the most important early scholars or theologians were themselves bishops. Argumentation at this time took the form of passages being argued before a set of judges and the two sides took the passage in question and then used various scholars to prove and or refute a point with the weighter scholar (often Church father but not always) being given more credence. I would also point out that to this day no one has the right to "personally" interpret the Bible so that hasn't changed either even though far too many people try. To "personally" interpret Scripture is to fall into the same sin as is being discussed in this thread.

The modern thought by the way comes from Calvin who expressed the idea that the person who gets ahead in life through hard work is blessed by God and therefore must be saved. It was seen as a means of assuring yourself and those around you of your salvation. But, Calvin's thought while foreign to the Medieval mindset is not new and can be found even in the Old Testament even though the Old Testament speak against this way of thinking.

Even though the ill trained priest or mendicant friar my preach that hoarding causes famine that isn't where the sin is located the sin is located in the person hoarding causing harm to their neighbor. Sin is individual, specific to the person commiting the sin and the person being harmed and when you say, "Basically you aren't allowed to cause the misery yourself," you are hitting the theological nail on the head.

Timothy, I know that you aren't professionally a theologian and speaking as one I want to commend what you've tried to express. You've done an admirable job for not having had the formation and training.

I've nothing much to add here, except to note that even though "Working to become rich" is sinful, there is, of course, nothing stopping characters nonetheless doing this.

It is also sinful to murder, commit adulatory, perform pagan rituals, etc. Like today, people do sinful things all the time in 1220 --- even when they know and agree that it is sinful. Some characters might feel bad about it later. Some characters will hate you if you are a sinner. Others might not care too much.

The extension of sola fides, if I'm using my terms correctly, to matters of practice seen in some Protestant churches, so that the faithful are guided to the truth as a gift from God, and as such a faithful person with a Bible can develop a deeper understanding of God without the direct aid of the Church, acting outside the apostolic succession?

My point being that the idea that you'd argue solely from biblical quotation is a post-game.

On that last point we are going to have to differ slightly: I think the Church becomes far more lax in many areas in the intervening centuries, for example in the matter of interest on ursury. When I was writing that bit of LoM I noticed how hard the pre-Aquinas church was in this whole area: so unreasonable to the modern standard. I wondered at the time if players would find it hard to accept, because it does make the Church look oppressive.

It's the other way around. Coveting (wanting what is not yours) are the last two Commandments while theft is number 7. The Commandments flow from the preceeding ones which is why when you break any of the Commandments you break the first one. Number 2 flows out of number 1 and 3 flows from 2 and 1 and so forth.
I have not seen it expressed in this form in period documents, but I may have missed it: this concept that the order of the commandments is systematic beyond that the first comes first. If you have a reference handy I would find it very interesting.


Thanks. It's tricky to get the idea across without making the Church an ogre or belittling what they were trying to do with it, which was prevent famine and unemployment.

Well, not that much: The recent economical crisis can be, at least in part, related to what the church tried to prevent: Under these, I doubt it would have happened at all.

So much to cover and so little time... :smiley:

Ah, no Sola Fides is basically a sound bite; it refers to justification of which there are two types. Objective and subjective justification of which the first is that Jesus died for the sins of the entire world. That means that everyone who has lived, is living, and will live their sins are forgiven. Now that's fine and good but it does the individual no good until it is applied to them personally and they recieve that forgiveness of sins through faith; that Jesus died for their sins. And that forgiveness is applied or received by them through the sacrament of Baptism. Now this doctrine wasn't clearly developed until Luther but Luther wasn't the first to espouse this doctrine. He was inspired by Scripture and earlier writers. In the 1200's I know of no one who espoused this thought in this way but you will find the core thought in St. Augustine and some of the Eastern Fathers as well. It all coalessed for Luther as he read St. Paul's letter to the Romans and he put that together what the Church Fathers had written.

Also, the Lutheran church has never taught that an individual can read the Bible seperate from the Church and come to a deeper understanding of God that will be correct. The person might or might not be right (usually right on some things and wrong on others), but the Church still has to examine that understanding and approve or disapprove it. You have to wrestle with the text and talk about it with others to come to a deeper understanding of what is being said and taught. That includes reading what others have written on the matter both pro and con to your current understanding or thinking. I think what you might be confusing here is the Lutheran concept that God's Word reigns supreme above and beyond what humans write and think and that humans, even councils can err, but God's Word never errs. In the 1200's you had a real struggle going on and to over simplify things between two parites. Those who held God's Word above all and those who held that the Bishops (especially the Pope) were the interpreters of the Bible: anyway they chose even when it was clearly against God's revealed Word. But, don't forget that various churches in the West continued to defy the Pope on some issues. Like seperating Confirmation and first Communion from Baptism. The early Church practised all three at one time, but the West seperated them due to the explosion of church growth and the Bishops having to Confirm the new member. Milan continued to defy the Pope on that one. I digress too much on this one so back to the topic.

Now in what I've previously written I've been using the term "Church" in a very Lutheran understanding and that is the invisible Church; which is also a very foreign concept in the 1200's. What it means to be Church at this time, as your research has shown you, means that you were were apart of the visible "Catholic" church especially since the West had excommunicated the East they thought they were the only ones going to heaven or at worst purgatory. :wink:

You are correct even among the "learned" the Bible was never argued on the basis of Scriputre alone. They always used Scripture as the starting point and then mustered various authorites like the Church Fathers to support or attack the points of view being expressed. They would also use other Scripture to support their primary pericope, but usually this was done when those verses were agreed upon as supporting the primary arguement. It has something but not totally to do the the mindset that what is old is more valuable and true than what is new. It was also a very legalistic time. Due in no small part to the Law being easier to understand than the Gospel. There was also a strong fear that forgiveness would be turned into a license to sin even more. The common everyday priest or friar didn't necessarily know or understand these thoughts and arguements as these type of debates were seen as being far above them. This was only for the learned who would then advise/inform the bishops who would make the pronouncements. But then times haven't changed much because fundamentally man hasn't changed.

As to the systematic view of the Decalogue you'll have to wait until August before I can go back and check. If my memory serves I think it was Augustine, but I'm not going to place any money on that because it could have been an Eastern Father too; they all tend to run together after a while. I'm getting ready to take a much needed vacation and won't be back until late July. However, if you want a more immediate answer I suggest contacting one of your countrymen. A Dr. Gregory Lockwood in Adelaide; he's a professor at Austrialla Lutheran College and one of my professors when he was here in the States. A very good man and while he's an exegete and not a church historian he might be able to point you in the right direction.

There is one last point that I want to make and that is the Church and her teaching doesn't change. Down through the centuries the Church will emphasize a doctrine in reaction to what is going on in the culture at that time. As the problem changes the Church is forced to then face that challenge and it looks like it drops the previous issue, but it hasn't. It's just not needed to face the current problem, so it isn't pushed. During the 1200's as a market economy was begining to develop again the Church had to face the problems that you were bringing out; hence the hardline stance. I found in my studies when I come across things that don't seem to go together to remember that the Church is like a wide river made up of many different streams. Each stream has it's particular focus theologically that it is wrestles with, but it is still a part of the larger whole. It wasn't until the Council of Trent that many of those streams were fused into something closer to a monolithic river in response to the Lutheran stream that was clamoring for what it saw as its part in the scheme of things. :wink:

All of this to say that it's individuals and groups emphasize this or that point at a certain point in time (this can be right or wrong) to face the current problem. The Church, however, has always taught the same thing because of God; God doesn't change so the message of the Church can't change. That doesn't mean that things don't get distorted and warped at times but the Church as a living institution comes back into shape because of God and eventually gets back on track; for the most part.

Sorry to have written a manuscript, but the issues being discussed are complex and they rest upon underlying and more fundamental doctrines. :slight_smile: