Doing well by doing good

子謂衛公子荊善居室:「始有,曰『苟合矣』;少有,曰『苟完矣』;富有,曰『苟美矣。』」
Confucius commented that Prince Jing of Wei knew how to manage the finances of his household well: “When he began to accumulate some wealth, he said ‘this is truly an ideal fit.’ As his wealth increased, he said ‘this is truly complete.’ When his wealth became considerable, he said ‘this is truly beautiful.’”

Confucius was no hair-shirted ascetic. He had no objections to virtuous people like Prince Jing “doing well by doing good” as long as they weren’t excessive about it.

As a minister in the government of the state of Wei and a member of the ruling family, the prince had ample opportunity to enrich himself and enjoy the trappings of office but was known for his lack of extravagance. By praising for his (relative) restraint, Confucius is also probably indirectly criticizing others for their unbridled greed and dissolute lifestyles.

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