|Saint James the Just|
Spiritual worldliness is defined in the exhortation Evangelii Gaudium as “seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being.” A fair definition, acting in some sense as a summary of the Epistle of St. James. There the 'brother of the Lord' says, ‘Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world’ (James 1:27). One of the most effective means of avoiding spiritual worldliness is to put into action the precepts given by Christ, summed up in command to love your neighbour as yourself.
However, it would be simplistic to think that merely by doing acts of charity towards the poor one is left unstained by the world. St Mark records the story of Our Lord watching many rich men making vast contributions to the Temple Treasury, before witnessing an elderly widow offer in two copper coins. It was this widow, said Jesus, who had put in most, for she had contributed everything she had. But contributed to whom? According to the “reality” of the world no one benefited from the widow’s well-intentioned but insignificant gesture.
Jesus’s concern was not so much whether or not the donation had any great material effect. Rather, He saw the manifestation of Divine Love in the woman. Genuine charity is a spiritual act; a manifestation of Divine Love, which is always given in abundance.
|The Widow's Coin|
An excessive attachment to the world and its goods is an impediment to man’s relationship with God and his fellow man. Of course, the fruits of the earth are good things in themselves and indeed can be taken as manifestation of God’s grace, as in the case of the righteous man Job, who was certainly blessed in the eyes of the world. However, when Job was put to the test and his prosperity removed, how did he react?
|Job before the Virgin and Child|
St. Francis de Sales teaches that Christians should possess in their heart ‘both riches and poverty, a great care and a great contempt for temporal things.’ There is certainly a tension in the Christian’s vocation and if it is not properly balanced he can fall into the trap of spiritual worldliness, either through a lack of concern for their fellow man or through excessive care for material things. Fortunately however, Christians can look to the Widow or Job, or indeed St. James as they seek to meet the various trials of their earthly life.