Vol I No. 7
Daily Thought

Trinity XVIII Epistle: Thomas Aquinas with Commentary

by William J. Martin



True and False Riches:

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ ; that in everything ye are enriched by Him. (1 Cor. i. 4,5)

In that the Apostle gives thanks that -they were enriched by Him, he indicates that there are certain riches which are to be desired; and in that Christ truly threatened the rich, he shows that there are certain riches which are to beavoided. Whence we learn that there are temporal riches, spiritual riches, and eternal riches. Of temporal riches: If riches increase, set not your heart upon them. (Ps. lxii. 10) Of spiritual riches: Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, and….Wealth and riches shall be in his house. (Ps. cxii. 1-3) Of eternal riches: Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. (Prov. viii. 18) Riches are with me, i.e., the better things; And glory, i.e., ineffable; durable riches, i.e., such as are exalted; and righteousness, i.e., such as are according to merit

It is to be noted, that temporal riches are to be despised chiefly for four reasons.

(1) On account of their uselessness: He that loveth abundance shall not be satisfied with increase. (Eccl. v. 10) Increase here is opposed to the fruit of eternal life. Riches profit not in the day of wrath. (Prov. xi. 4) That is, temporal riches do not avail for the salvation of man in the day of judgment; But righteousness delivereth from death, i.e. the good works of righteousness deliver from eternal death. Set not thy heart upon goods; and say not, I have enough for my life. . . . For they shall not profit thee in the day of calamity,. (Ecclus. v. 1-8) We brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. (1 S. Tim. vi. 7)

Temporal riches are useless. The more a man has of them the more he needs and desires. Earthly riches tend only to generate the demand for more of them. A cycle of addiction is thus commenced in the soul of the man who needs them. He becomes greedy, avaricious. He accumulates more in the addictive cycle and yet shares less and less of them with others. Their accumulation is an infinite repetition of finite amounts. As far as earthly means of imitating the Divine Nature goes, such is a rather base and banal way to go about it. Other forms of imitating the Divine are to be preferred if a man hopes to come close to the Kingdom of God.   The addiction to earthly riches will speak only of man’s idolatry on Judgment Day. The profit that was sought after and increased incrementally will be of no use or value in the Judgment.

(2) On account of the necessity of leaving them. They have slept their sleep; and none of the men of might have found their hands. (Ps. lxxvi. 5) He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly, (Job xx. 15)

Riches can speak to no good intention or motivation in man’s favor at the Judgment. When men awaken to the Judgment the riches and treasures of the earth will be left behind. Whatever benefit they might have afforded a man in this life, will be gone. Their meaning and purpose will be revealed to be idolatrous and idiolatrous. They cannot nourish a man’s soul, and thus they shall be ‘vomited up again’ at the Judgment. Only the Divine Virtue can nourish, strengthen, and perfect a man’s true nature. Only God’s goodness can better a man by actualizing His Image and Likeness in human life.  

(3) Because they lead those wrongly possessing them to perpetual poverty. The rich man shall lie down, but he shall not be gathered: he openeth his eyes, and he is not. (Job xxvii. 19)

The man who worshiped them will be left destitute, poor, powerless, and without any hint of spiritual integrity. Earthly riches do not make a man spiritually rich in wisdom, power, or love. Earthly riches only stand to distract a man from the pursuit of His chief end and good. Thus a man is made spiritually poor by the profit of earthly treasure.  

(4) Because the contempt of them leads to eternal life. And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My Name’s sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life. (St. Matt. xix. 29)

Contempt for the riches of this world leads to eternal life. Contempt means that they are treated for what they are –earthy things that carry no spiritual significance. Things that carry no spiritual significance are to be disdained and relegated to the dustbin of time. Man’s true treasure is found above in God the Holy Trinity. The treasure that we should seek is found in Him, through Him, and by Him. The Father’s Treasure is given to us as life in the Son, and we are secured and centered in such truth, beauty, and goodness by the motions of our Lord the Holy Ghost. Let us embrace this treasure. Let us be profited by it. Let us bring the virtues of this treasury to other men in our thoughts, words, works, and prayers.