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The Rich Get Richer

The wages of sin can seem lavish when we look at the lifestyles of celebrities. Some openly profess to hate God, others merely flout His law, and yet they have won media renown and amassed tremendous fortunes. To a Christian struggling to pay the bills and live by the Church’s precepts, the situation can seem unjust. Then, bitterness and envy can creep in and impoverish a soul that was once rich in grace. St. John Chrysostom (d. 407 A.D.), preaching on 1 Corinthians, warns us away from such evil thoughts.

When you see an enemy of God wealthy, with armed attendants and many flatterers, do not be downcast, but lament, weep, call upon God, that He may enroll him among His friends. And the more he prospers being God’s enemy, so much the more should you mourn for him. For sinners we ought always to weep, but especially when they enjoy wealth and good times, even as one should pity the sick when they eat and drink to excess.

But some who hear these words are made so unhappy that they sigh bitterly and say, “Tears are due to me. I have nothing.” You said it well — “I have nothing” — not because you lack what another has, but because you think that things will make you happy. For this you are worthy of infinite lamentations. It is as if a healthy person should call “happy” a man who is sick and lying on a soft couch. The latter is not near so wretched and miserable as he, because he has no sense of his own advantages. Such is the result in these men’s case as well, and thus our whole life is confounded and disordered. For these sayings have undone many, and betrayed them to the devil, and made them more pitiable than those who are wasted with famine.