When he wasn't working with Christian and Muslim leaders, making advancements in medicine, or writing commentaries on sacred texts, Maimonides also had time to act as a director of a large family business. And perhaps it was the combination of all these vocations that gave him the best insight to date on how best to help the poor.
And rest assured, that insight is decidedly capitalist.
The key message in Maimonides' essay, "The Eight Levels of Charity," is that the highest level of charity is to give a person a job or even a business loan in a way that both the donor and beneficiary can eventually profit.
"The highest degree of charity, exceeded by none is — in a word — putting the poor man in a place where he can no longer need other people's aid," Maimonides wrote.
For those of you who think this sounds a lot like the proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime," you're right on the money.
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But it's also important to note the kind of charity Maimonides considers to be the lowest form of giving, that is the "charity" that is given unwillingly, especially by force.
If that isn't a 12th-century prophecy for coerced taxpayer-funded "welfare," I don't know what is.
The point is, the pope has it right when he says caring more for our fellow human beings will improve the entire human condition. But that caring only be sustained when all parties feel valued as opposed to one side feeling forced to give to charity and the other side being simply identified as the faceless recipients of "goodwill."
Pope Francis has devoted most of his life to making sure he gets so close and personal with the poor that they will never be faceless or one-dimensional. Now, he must follow the wisdom of a Medieval Jewish Rabbi, scholar, physician and merchant to understand how not to underestimate the rich, and those who strive to be rich without forgetting their responsibilities to all.
— By Jake Novak
Jake Novak is supervising producer of "The Kudlow Report." Follow him on Twitter