As the Roman Empire crumbled and finally fell, the local agrarian economy became paramount. During the European Dark Ages, there was little trade beyond a day’s journey. Money was rare among the noble classes and practically nonexistent among the peasantry. It simply had no particular worth or use.
Trade and barter were the basis for the economy in Europe, and wealth was much more directly connected to the rise and fall of the fortunes of working with the Earth. Although Pagan beliefs were being overlaid with Christianity, many folk customs prevailed which honored the seasons and appeased the forces of Nature. Survival, after all, was intimately dependent on the benevolence, not just of the Christ, but the local springs and wells, fertility, the rains, and the coming of Spring.
The roots of early Christianity were deeply intertwined with a repulsion of the Roman tastes for avarice, decadence and materialism. So the Christian Church, in its early days, was a champion of teaching balance between the secular and the spiritual, if not downright rejection of the material world, since it was expected that their God would be returning momentarily.
For example, according to Purdue University professor emeritus, John Houkes, in most ancient cultures, charging interest for loans, and certainly, usury (charging excessive fees) was considered a sin. He notes that it was Aristotle who started all of the negative press on interest by “pronouncing that money is barren, that money cannot engender money.”
The Christians would agree, with the idea that money shouldn‘t produce money — for that is up to God. And, he notes, Christians believed in “the moral stricture of the responsibility of treating other men as brothers.”
People only asked for loans if circumstances were dire indeed, and to take advantage of someone in need was considered against God’s law. Using another’s misfortune to profit, therefore, was considered wicked indeed. To give to one’s brother in need, on the other hand, was a sacred duty, and would surely bring spiritual blessings.
So during this time, wealth, if not money, was infused again with a sense of the sacred, of spiritual obligation, and blessings from the Divine.
Obviously, this was about to change yet again.