A Season of Lent: Trusting in Men and Riches

Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection…

“This is what the Lord says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.” (Jeremiah 17:5-6)

“Blessed is the one who does not fall away on account of Me.” As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? Otherwise, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? Look, those who wear fine clothing are found in kings’ palaces.…” (Matthew 11: 6-8)

Lenten Prayer: O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things. Amen. Ora Pro Nobis. (By St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556)

Catastrophes bring everyone to the question: in whom or in what do we place our trust?  That is one of the purposes of Lent: to draw us back to the only One who deserves our trust.  Too many put their trust in men because of being overly afraid.  Now 2 Weeks is turning into 2 years and the promised end of the pandemic from one political side (if only they were elected) has not materialized and they are now in power.  Indeed they daily create more fear and promise one thing about help with their words but reality is showing average citizens all of this to be a lie. This is what happens when people put their trust in human beings to save them. What is in store for the world after this pandemic is over?

Some sobering words, once more, from the Prophet Jeremiah. Recall that before Jerusalem fell at the time of Jeremiah’s preaching, she and her inhabitants were enjoying great prosperity but they were in spiritual poverty and moral shipwreck. In fact, spirituality had become a joke and those taking such seriously were worthy of ridicule in their eyes. Not unlike our present time. What Jeremiah tries to tell them is that what they think will save them – their earthly prosperity brought about by the efforts of men – is really poverty and will not save them. Indeed, it will bring about their ruin. Pursuing riches prevents them from treasuring spiritual wealth and their pursuit of it in place of God (or in their eyes, in addition to Him), causes them to be untrustworthy… Chesterton writes quite candidly about why we are not to trust the rich or in riches in numerous essays and books. But none come so close to capturing the essence of why the Church has been so adamant about the subject as this passage from Orthodoxy

“Is there any answer to the proposition that those who have had the best opportunities will probably be our best guides? Is there any answer to the argument that those who have breathed clean air had better decide for those who have breathed foul? As far as I know, there is only one answer, and that answer is Christianity. Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich. For she has maintained from the beginning that the danger was not in man’s environment, but in man. Further, she has maintained that if we come to talk of a dangerous environment, the most dangerous environment of all is the commodious environment. I know that the most modern manufacture has been really occupied in trying to produce an abnormally large needle. I know that the most recent biologists have been chiefly anxious to discover a very small camel. But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest–if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this– that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy. Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world. For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable. You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man. The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor. A Christian may consistently say, “I respect that man’s rank, although he takes bribes.” But a Christian cannot say, as all modern men are saying at lunch and breakfast, “a man of that rank would not take bribes.” For it is a part of Christian dogma that any man in any rank may take bribes. It is a part of Christian dogma; it also happens by a curious coincidence that it is a part of obvious human history. When people say that a man “in that position” would be incorruptible, there is no need to bring Christianity into the discussion. Was Lord Bacon a bootblack? Was the Duke of Marlborough a crossing sweeper? In the best Utopia, I must be prepared for the moral fall of any man in any position at any moment; especially for my fall from my position at this moment. – G. K. Chesterton, The Eternal Revolution, Orthodoxy, 1908

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