After just a few minutes with Elena, you sensed that she was really rich. You could see it in the way she treasured the world's great literary works. Or the way she got carried away with Beethoven symphonies. Or the way she had learned to paint, for the sheer joy of it. Or the way she sliced to the heart of an issue with razor-keen intellect. And you could see how liberally she shared her wealth - her exuberance, her love for literature and music, her paintings, her ideas, her wonderful East European brown bread.
Ironically, though, Elena was anything but wealthy in terms of money. When I knew her in graduate school, she and her husband had just come to the United States, refugees from an oppressive regime in their country. They'd had to leave everything behind when they walked across the border - their family, their possessions, their clothing. Even their wedding rings.
So, without ever saying a word about it, Elena and her husband taught our family a lot about real wealth. Wealth that goes WAY beyond bank accounts or real estate or net worth. It was incredible to us that Elena and her husband never grieved over their losses. They never complained about their tiny campus apartment or tiny budget. And gradually we realized why.
The fact is, Elena and her husband hadn't lost everything. They still had all that truly mattered. They had their love for each other, their values, their reverence for beauty, their passion for freedom, their burning conviction that the forces for good must win out in the world. These were things no one could ever take away from them. And they knew it.
Elena's wealth was secure because it was fundamentally spiritual. She and her husband had the strongest faith in freedom, wisdom, integrity, beauty, goodness. These are values that actually come from God - from what the Bible calls "durable riches" (Prov. 8:18).
On the other hand, they had experienced firsthand how unreliable material wealth is. They had learned that, as the Bible says, "Riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven" (Prov. 23:5).
Of course, a person doesn't have to lose everything to acquire spiritual wealth. But one does need to understand that material possessions and status don't constitute real well-being. They don't constitute real security, either. These come from God alone.
The more we realize this, the richer we become - spiritually. Conversely, the more we look to cash, credit, and material possessions for satisfaction, the more deprived and frustrated we tend to feel. Why? Because we're looking for something we'll never find: genuine value in matter.
Some people find satisfaction in spiritual values they wouldn't necessarily connect with God, or divine Soul. Others are ready to acknowledge God as the One who gives them spiritual resources. For them, real security, real value, real happiness, clearly reside in the things of Soul. And they sense that, as the writings of Mary Baker Eddy explain, there is nothing closefisted about the way Soul gives to us. "Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind," she writes, "and happiness would be more readily attained and would be more secure in our keeping, if sought in Soul" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 60.)
Yet people who enlarge their spiritual treasury find that their lives become tangibly happier and more secure. Some, like Elena and her husband, find that their overall standard of living improves. Others, like a new Nigerian reader of "The Herald of Christian Science" who wrote recently, find that they're healed of serious illness. Still others find serenity they've never known before.
One thing is inevitable. People who invest their faith in the resources of Soul won't be disappointed. They'll receive spiritual dividends beyond anything money could ever buy. They'll find something that will make them truly rich - forever.
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