ViewpointPoverty, chastity, and obedience are all about money, sex, and power

The evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience correlate with the fundamental human issues of money, sex, and power, and may be seen as the Christian “response” to these issues. While professed religious undertake a life vowed to the evangelical counsels, all Christians are called to follow these counsels.

Let us take poverty first. We are inclined to think that poverty is possible only for religious who live in community. The truth is that poverty is incumbent upon all of us. How is that possible? Because all who follow Christ are called to live simply and frugally. That, of course, is easier said than done.

Living simply and frugally means that we always consider the needs of others when making economic decisions. We should not live luxuriously and indulge ourselves in lavish ways, but make sure that we keep the needs of our fellow men and women—whether in our own family or in the larger world—in mind when we plan the use of our income and property.

The call to poverty does not mean giving away everything. We would not be able to survive if we did. But it does mean that we avoid piling up money and goods, and that we get into the habit of giving generously, realizing that the goods of the world belong to all humankind. We are called to be good stewards of what we own, living simply, as the saying goes, so that others may simply live.

Sexuality, the second issue, is one of the most complex aspects of human existence. Indeed, when considered in its totality, human life is immensely complicated by the matter of sex. There are few who do not struggle with sexuality, and the practice of virtue in this area is no easy feat. The fact that we live in an increasingly sexualized culture makes chastity all the more difficult.

The virtue of chastity is incumbent upon every person, no matter his or her way of life. Clergy, laity, and religious, married or single, are called to let the Gospel of Christ and the wisdom of Christian tradition inform the area of sexuality.

Chastity means sexual discipline, training one’s sexuality to have a Christian character, ensuring that one’s sexuality never slides in the direction of what is degrading, self-centered, and dehumanizing of others.
The matter of obedience, the third issue, is associated almost exclusively with monastics, religious, and clergy. However, the Christian virtue of obedience means at heart a constant and fundamental willingness to consider and serve the common good.

The life issue with which obedience deals is power. The human being is endowed with enormous power for good and evil; he or she is often tempted to seek to control life and to organize it according to particular likes and dislikes.

Living out the counsel of obedience means that we listen to others--which is what obedience means literally--and refuse to make the self the center of the universe. The obedient outlook means openness to the wisdom of others, having a constant attitude of self-examination, being ready to serve our brothers and sisters, and letting the greater good impel us.

In the Rule of Saint Benedict, the monks are called to be obedient not only to the abbot—but to each other. The idea is that living in community means always listening to the other, and being available to be of service to the other. That’s an ideal we can all strive for.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.