Poverty and Riches

From the Christian Science Journal, April 1915, by

Perhaps no one group of persons has oftener been assailed by hatred and envy than the class which is accounted rich in a material sense. Not long ago, two friends were talking on this subject, and one said, “I have not been able yet to make my financial demonstration.” A moment later she added resentfully: “I cannot make it seem right that some people have to work out of poverty and others do not. Every one is subject to disease, but I cannot see the justice of some being poor and others being rich.”

The other replied: “Then you fail to see that the rich man, as a rich man, has just as big a problem to work out as you have. In fact, his problem from the personal standpoint is even more complex than yours. You have simply to see clearly that divine Love meets your needs; while he has first to realize that all his material possessions are nothing, before he can begin, even in a small degree, to look to Mind as the source of his supply. Besides this, his wealth involves, in most cases, the necessity to provide employment for many others, and this with all its varied demands is no light thing. These two problems are in another sense analogous to the claims of sickness and sin. A sinner seems to be getting pleasure from his sin, while every one realizes that a sick person is only sensing misery. In a certain sense, all a sick person has to do is to turn to Truth and realize that health is an ever-present possession of all; on the other hand, a sinner must get rid of his belief in the pleasure of sin, before he is ready to be healed of sin.”

Afterward, in thinking over the subject, the writer was led to make a more thorough study than ever before of two Bible passages which deal directly with the rich man’s problem. The first of these is in the tenth chapter of Mark. Much has been written of the rich young man who in the midst of material possessions yearned unconsciously for the imperishable good, even eternal life. Students of this Scriptural passage will note that the first demand our Master made was that the young man should take steps to get rid of his material sense of possession.

Unflinchingly the Master pointed out the one quick, thorough method of procedure. Apparently the youth was to strip himself of those houses and lands, jewels and beautiful garments, which seemed so securely his own peculiar treasures; but how glorious was the promise which accompanied this demand, even the assurance that he should have “treasure in heaven”! How sad that those possessions, which today are dust, should have proved the one stumbling-block before the feet of that rich young man! With his unfailing discernment the Master had found the one weak spot in the youth’s spiritual armor. Across the intervening centuries comes a swift stab of regret to every discerning student who reads the summing up of the incident,—”and he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.”

The second passage which may be cited as a clear analysis of the rich man’s problem, is contained in the twelfth chapter of Luke. There we are told that the ground of a certain rich man brought forth such an abundance that he took counsel with himself as to what he should do with his vast stores of worldly goods. Evidently no thought of giving to others came to this man’s consciousness. Immersed in selfishness, the only solution he could find for his difficulty was to pull down his barns and storehouses and build greater, wherein to hoard his wealth. Then, secure in his sense of material abundance, and without a thought of gratitude to God or charity to his brother man, he planned to give himself up to a round of worldly pleasure. He said to himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”

The orthodox explanation of this parable is that God meant to cause the rich man to depart this life suddenly, leaving his material treasures to other hands. A study of the passage in the light of Christian Science, however, shows the utter inadequacy of such a concept. God is the Life of all being, and the divine Life could no more cease to be reflected than the sun could cease to shine on some one man while others standing with him were still bathed in its light. God is infinite wisdom, and an infinitely wise God would not take from one child that which had proved a temptation and stumbling-block, to put it into other hands.

A study of pages 481 and 482 of our text-book, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mrs. Eddy, illumines this passage of the Bible with the clear light of Christian Science, for there our Leader says: “Soul is the divine Principle of man and never sins,—hence the immortality of Soul. In Science we learn that it is material sense, not Soul, which sins; and it will be found that it is the sense of sin which is lost, and not a sinful soul.”

The rich may feast through a long day of carnality, while the poor are crying without their gates. In fancied security behind his bolts and bars, the selfish worldling laughs at fate and despises God. But a night cometh, a time of darkness, doubt, and solitude! Then the “still small voice” of Truth will not be denied. Ruthlessly Truth strips all disguise from sensual pleasure, lifts the mask of folly, and requires of mortal man his soul, his false sense of life and its real values.

Then will that rich man, heavy of heart, come to the heavenly gate, and cry out in anguish, striving to enter in. And when he has knelt before his Maker, and the burden of false belief has rolled from him, whose will those possessions then be? The rich man will learn that all good comes from the divine source alone, and thereafter, prompted by Love, his new found understanding as well as his temporal possessions will flow as a river to the need of his fellow men. He will hear the cry of the poor suffering ones without his gates. Those gates will be unbarred and flung wide, and he will say to himself: “All these goods which I have laid up are but a dream of wealth. My true riches are in Spirit. Why, then, should I hoard for tomorrow, when I have proved for myself that ‘Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind’ ((Science and Health, p.60). Then I can give freely to help my brother who is suffering from a sense of lack, and still be rich beyond the power of speech to express it. So indeed is every one that, as the Master taught, layeth not up treasure for himself, but seeketh to be rich toward God.”

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