Book 4 / Chapter 5
‘Are riches truly your possession, or by their nature valuable?
Which of them in particular? Gold and money in abundance? But their sheen is more attractive when they are doled out rather than gathered in, * for avarice always breeds hatred, whereas generosity
brings men fair fame. Now none of us can retain what is passed on to another, so money becomes valuable only when bestowed on other by the practice of giving,
thus ceasing to be possessed.
Indeed, if all the money in the world were concentrated in the hands of a single person, the rest would be rendered penniless. The human voice can fill the ears of many at once without diminution, but men’s riches cannot pass to more than one unless they are fragmented; and when that happens, they must
impoverish those who relinquish them. So how restrictive and poverty-stricken are these riches, which cannot be possessed in their entirety by the many, and which do not pass to any single person without leaving the rest in want?
‘ Or is it the sparkle of jewels that attracts men’s eyes? Yet if their brilliance is something out of the ordinary, their brightness is the property of the jewels, not of the men who own them. Indeed I am utterly astonished that men admire them, for can anything
justifiably, appear beautiful to a rational nature endowed with life, if it lacks the movement and physical frame of a living creature?
Admittedly jewels can claim a measure of beauty at the lowest level, as being the work of the Creator with this own distincive quality, but they rank below human excellence, and should in no way deserve the admiration of men.
…THERE IS NO POINT IN SEEKING ABUNDANCE FROM FORTUNE.
NATURE IS CONTENT WITH FEW POSSESSIONS, AND THE HUMBLEST; SHOULD YOU SEEK TO OVERLOAD HER SUFFICIENCY WITH SUPERFLUITIES, THE ADDITION WILL BECOME DISTASTEFUL OR HARMFUL.