Proverbial PietyBy Fr. Paul Ward
This feature of the Compass offers some brief reflections on the spiritual life, taking as it’s parting point, each time, some verse in the scriptures, especially from the book of Proverbs. The translations are my own, from the Greek Septuagint; you may find some differences with the English Bible you use at home, and this is the reason why.
True Riches and True Power (Part 1 of 3)
10:15 The acquisition of riches is a resilient city,
but the ruin of impious men is poverty.
This magnificent proverb hides within it a great secret to obtain spiritual perfection, and the strength to combat every temptation.
We shall consider it in three parts. Today’s article explores the concept of riches, and explains why it is not exterior riches but interior wickedness which drags a soul down. In March, we shall examine the nature of strength and resilience which is praised here. And finally, in April, prior to Easter, we shall discover why mercy is at the heart of all spiritual strength.
The Spirit moves the regenerated soul to inquire into the meaning of “riches,” for we know that God does not mean “money.” The wealth of gold and silver or other valuables provide no gain for anyone, but rather an obstacle.
“Come now, you rich men,” says James the Apostle, “weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like a fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days” (Jam 5:1-3).
He then explains the nature of their sins, which were not such as the possession of wealth, for one just might manage to be extremely wealthy but also a saint; rather, these sins were the fraud perpetrated against hard-working employees, and the false condemnation of the righteous man. Or again, the Lord in Luke’s Gospel reproaches the Pharisees, “lovers of money.”
Now, there is one biblical definition of the term “riches” which is less reproachful than the rest, and that is “mercy.” For God has “endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for distruction,” but he has made known to us “the riches of his glory for his objects of mercy… including us” (Rom 9:22-23). That is, we are the objects of his mercy, for we are sinners; and for sinners, he has riches, for God is glorified in his mercy on fallen man.
These riches can be obtained by man, purchased spiritually, by the spiritual coins of humility. And God sells his mercy cheaply, that is, he rewards man disproportionately for his humility, giving much mercy for little humility, and huge mercy for only a bit more humility. Against God’s mercy, the demons in hell have no power, and when God has taken in his hands the lost sheep, the demons can do nothing to snatch the soul away from his hands. The richness of God’s mercy makes man impervious to the darts of the powers of hell.