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What the Taxman Can’t Take Away

Still smarting from April 15? Consider the words of St. John Chrysostom, in his Homilies on 1 Corinthians (somewhat adapted).

Christ says, “I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man shall take from you” (Jn 16:22). A brief saying, but one that has much consolation in it. What then is this, “your joy no man shall take from you”?

If you have money, many are able to take away the joy that comes from your wealth — for instance, a thief, by digging through the wall; a servant by carrying off what was entrusted to him; an emperor by confiscation; and the envious man by insolence. Should you possess power, there are many who can deprive you of the joy of it. For when the conditions of office are at an end, the conditions of pleasure will also be ended. In the exercise of office itself, too, accidents happen, which, by bringing difficulty and care, strike at the root of your satisfaction. If you have bodily strength, the assaults of disease put a stop to joy from that source. If you have beauty and bloom, the approach of old age withers it and takes away that joy. Or if you enjoy a sumptuous table, when evening comes on the joy of the banquet is at an end. For everything belonging to this life is liable to damage, and is unable to afford us a lasting pleasure.

But piety and the virtue of the soul are altogether the reverse of this. If you have done alms, no one is able to take away this good work. Though an army or kings or myriads of calumniators and conspirators were to best you on all sides, they could not take away the possession, once deposited in heaven. But the joy continually lives on, for it is said, “He has dispersed, he has given to the poor, his righteousness endures forever” (Ps 112:9).