Wednesday, October 25, 2006




Which treats of joy with respect to temporal blessings. Describes how joy in them must be directed to God.

THE first kind of blessing of which we have spoken is temporal. And by temporal blessings we here understand riches, rank, office and other things that men desire; and children, relatives, marriages, etc.: all of which are things wherein the will may rejoice. But it is clear how vain a thing it is for men to rejoice in riches, titles, rank, office and other such things which they are wont to desire; for, if a man were the better servant of God for being rich, he ought to rejoice in riches; but in fact they are rather a cause for his giving offence to God, even as the Wise Man teaches, saying: 'Son, if thou be rich, thou shalt not be free from sin.' Although it is true that temporal blessings do not necessarily of themselves cause sin, yet, through the frailty of its affections, the heart of man habitually clings to them and fails God (which is a sin, for to fail God is sin); it is for this cause that the Wise Man says: 'Thou shalt not be free from sin.' For this reason the Lord described riches, in the Gospel, as thorns, in order to show that he who touches them with the will shall be wounded by some sin. And that exclamation which He makes in the Gospel, saying: 'How hardly shall they that have riches enter the Kingdom of the heavens' -- that is to say, they that have joy in riches -- clearly shows that man must not rejoice in riches, since he exposes himself thereby to such great peril. And David, in order to withdraw us from this peril, said likewise: 'If riches abound, set not your heart on them.' And I will not here quote further testimony on so clear a matter.
2. For in that case I should never cease quoting Scripture, nor should I cease describing the evils which Solomon imputes to riches in Ecclesiastes. Solomon was a man who had possessed great riches, and, knowing well what they were, said: 'All things that are under the sun are vanity of vanities, vexation of spirit and vain solicitude of the mind.' And he that loves riches, he said, shall reap no fruit from them. And he adds that riches are kept to the hurt of their owner, as we see in the Gospel, where it was said from Heaven to the man that rejoiced because he had kept many fruits for many years: 'Fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee to give account thereof, and whose shall be that which thou has provided?' And finally, David teaches us the same, saying: 'Let us have no envy when our neighbour becomes rich, for it will profit him nothing in the life to come;' meaning thereby that we might rather have pity on him.
3. It follows, then, that a man must neither rejoice in riches when he has them, nor when his brother has them, unless they help them to serve God. For if ever it is allowable to rejoice in them, it will be when they are spent and employed in the service of God, for otherwise no profit will be derived from them. And the same is to be understood of other blessings (titles, offices, etc.), in all of which it is vain to rejoice if a man feel not that God is the better served because of them and the way to eternal life is made more secure. And as it cannot be clearly known if this is so (if God is better served, etc.), it would be a vain thing to rejoice in these things deliberately, since such a joy cannot be reasonable. For, as the Lord says: 'If a man gain all the world, he may yet lose his soul.' There is naught, then, wherein to rejoice save in the fact that God is better served.