Does Loving Our Neighbor Mean Giving Him Everything?

Does Loving Our Neighbor Mean Giving Him Everything?There are some who claim that the Divine Commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself means to treat all with equal charity. Such a misconception can have disastrous effects upon an economy or society, since it is not possible to give everything to everyone.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, commenting on Saint Augustine’s observations, claims that in loving one’s neighbor, one must make a distinction between “benevolence” or “goodwill” which means desiring a good for others without actually providing it, and “beneficence” or “doing good” which means actually providing what others need out of one’s own scarce goods.

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Saint Thomas notes: “As regards beneficence we are bound to observe inequality, because we cannot do good to all: but as regards benevolence, love ought not to be thus unequal.”

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(As cited in John D. Mueller, Redeeming Economics: Rediscovering the Missing Element, ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware, 2010, p. 142.)