Humility & Wealth
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 18:2-4 (ESV)].
Decorous accessories often accompany our acquisition of substantial wealth. None of these accessories is more damaging to our character than hubris — pride. None is more necessary in prosperity than humility.
… all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, “for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. [1 Peter 5:5-7]
Much of our joy in possessing things comes from feeling superior or greater than others. As we inventory our accumulate possessions, we condescendingly compare ourselves to family, friends and foes, inwardly gloating over our prosperity and prestige. Our attitude oozes disdain and conceit.
And turn not thy cheek away from people in [false] pride, and walk not haughtily on earth: for, behold, God does not love anyone who, out of self-conceit, acts in a boastful manner. [Quran 31:18].
Who Do You Think You Are?
Our houses, our cars, our clothes become haughty symbols of status and prestige. Soon, they define what we do and who we are. We even take pride in being humble in our extravagance.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. [Philippians 2:3-4].
The inherent evil in wealth and affluence is that we will be captivated by them and lose sight of the Ultimate Reality. Enchanted by the delights of the physical world, we try to have as much of it as we can, only to find it an illusion.
I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, “What can get through such snares?” Then I heard a voice saying to me, “humility.” [Saint Anthony the Great].
A dimension exists that emanates from outside our thought process. It is the condition that mirrors our relationship to God. Our most profound thoughts humble themselves at the thought of God. This, in fact, is where the learning process begins.
Because in the school of the Spirit man learns wisdom through humility, knowledge by forgetting, how to speak by silence, how to live by dying. [Johannes Tauler].
Need for Humility
Transient possessions shouldn’t enchant us. We must stay alert to the consequences of prosperity and recognize the constant need for humility as a primary feature of our spiritual resume.
There is no doubt that God will never be wanting to us, provided that He finds in us that humility which makes us worthy of His gifts, the desire of possessing them, and the promptitude to co-operate industriously with the graces He gives us. [St. Ignatius of Loyola].
The passions, desires and lusts aroused by wealth and fame are notorious for deluding and destroying celebrities. Our modern media are replete with tragic stars whose downfalls were rooted in arrogance, pride and conceit.
Swollen with self-esteem, pockets bulging with affluence, brimming with prestige and confidence — is there any room for a little humility?
The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts. [Isaiah 57:15 (NLT)].
Wisely, we seek more than mere worldly fortune and status. We leverage our wealth to increase wisdom, cultivating humility along the way for even greater prosperity.
True humility and fear of the LORD lead to riches, honor, and long life. [Proverbs 22:4].
How do we merge humility and success? Soaring above our peers, our self-esteem belching confidence, we have difficulty grounding our ego on solid wisdom and pious thoughts.
If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed. [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity].
To stimulate the conscience means to start the process of humility working, for a function of conscience is to disturb the soul. Deserved guilt renders the mind submissive, remorseful, penitent, hopeful that the self-accusing spirit can be assuaged, reconciled, subdued.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. [Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?].
Our self-accusing conscience attacks us unexpectedly, continuously pointing out our faults and misdeeds. We either submit to this inner voice or overpower it by rationalization.
Thou wishest to be great, begin from the least. Thou art thinking to construct some mighty fabric in height; first think of the foundation of humility. [St. Augustine: Sermon on the Mount; Harmony of the Gospels; Homilies on the Gospels].
Our manifestation of humility must be a reflection of that which is in our heart. Anything else is hypocrisy. This condition can only come from awareness of and submission to the Divine Will.
Even if you be otherwise perfect, you fail without humility. [Talmud: Kalla Rabbati].
We become humble as the natural outgrowth of our piety. The more aware we become of God, the more humble we become in the face of His infinite majesty, beneficence and mercy.
When we appreciate the source of our prosperity and achievements, others can perceive that we are in fact humble. This earns their respect instead of their envy.
This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD [Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NIV)].
True humility allows us to enjoy success, fame and wealth by recognizing them as gifts from God. When we sincerely believe that our achievements are only due to Divine favors, pride poses no danger. Our thoughts remain immune from arrogance and conceit because we understand the source of our prosperity.
Our humility is entitled to its portion of honour when affluence and prosperity do not swell us with pride and insolence. He whose dispositions lead him to have pity on the poor, and to relieve the exigences of the necessitous and distressed, gains thereby the recompense of a treasure in heaven: and he who is a stranger to emulation and envy, and loves his brethren in simplicity of heart and unity of affection, becomes interested in the reward which is assigned to the peaceable and charitable. [St. Cyprian of Carthage].