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The question Was "love your enemies" ever included among the evangelical counsels? mentions evangelical counsels. In the question James T mentions that they are something to be kept by monastics but not Christians in general.

What is the basis for evangelical counsels and what are some examples?

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(Per Wikipedia), the evangelical counsels are three counsels (or pieces of wisdom that we should follow) in order to be "perfect".

Matthew 19:21 (NIV)
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

There are three counsels that are considered "evangelical counsels": chastity, poverty (or perfect charity), and obedience.

Salvation

The evangelical counsels are not considered part of the requirement for salvation. As James T mentioned, these are often counsels kept by monks, but not by the general population. A great quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia sums this up well:

To sum up: it is possible to be rich, and married, and held in honour by all men, and yet keep the Commandments and to enter heaven. Christ's advice is, if we would make sure of everlasting life and desire to conform ourselves perfectly to the Divine will, that we should sell our possessions and give the proceeds to others who are in need, that we should live a life of chastity for the Gospel's sake, and, finally, should not seek honours or commands, but place ourselves under obedience. These are the Evangelical Counsels, and the things which are counselled are not set forward so much as good in themselves, as in the light of means to an end and as the surest and quickest way of obtaining everlasting life.
Catholic Encyclopedia

Biblical Basis

The biblical basis for these are:

Chastity:

1 Corinthians 7:1 (NIV)
Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”

Poverty/Perfect Charity

Matthew 19:21 (NIV)
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Obedience
The idea with this is that we should be obedient to the Catholic church and the people who God has put in authority over us. This is based somewhat on:

Luke 10:16 (NIV)
“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Therefore, the people who have been put in place to teach are teaching as if from Jesus himself. Therefore, we should be obedient to them and their spiritual authority.

Desires of this world -vs- Evangelical Counsels

Essentially, there are three "good things" of this world:

  • Riches

  • Pleasures of the flesh and of the appetites (sexual appetite, food appetite, etc.)

  • Honors and positions of authority, which increases self love

These three things are not, in themselves, bad. These three things will not deny you heaven. However, these three things are what the evangelical counsels are attempting to address.

source: Catholic Encyclopedia

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