In modern America, wealth is made to be the greatest of goals. To be rich will make you happy, so they say. But St. John Chrysostom says the opposite, that if you see a rich person you should weep for them. For the man with a thousand acres of crops will fret that he doesn’t have two thousand acres. But the man who is hungry and has enough to fill him is “crowning himself and leaping for joy and giving thanks to God”. For “It is not luxury that causes our pleasure, but a self-controlling mind”.
When you see an enemy of God wealthy, with armed attendants and many flatterers, do not be downcast, but lament, weep, call upon God, that He may enroll him among His friends. And the more he prospers being God’s enemy, the more you should mourn for him. For we ought always to weep for sinners, but especially when they enjoy wealth and good time, even as one should pity the sick when they eat and drink to excess.St. John Chrysostom, copied from The Fathers of the Church by Mike Aquilina
But some who hear these words are made so unhappy that they sigh bitterly and say, “Tears are due to me. I have nothing.” You said it well – “I have nothing” – not because you lack what another has, but because you think that things will make you happy. For this you are worthy of infinite lamentations. It is as if a healthy person should call “happy” a man who is sick and lying on a soft couch.
As I said, the rich do not reap as much pleasure from what is present as they endure sorrow for what has not yet been added. For he who has had numberless quantities of wheat grieved and lamented more than he who suffered hunger. And while the one, on merely having his necessary food, was crowning himself and leaping for joy and giving thanks to God, the other who had so much was fretting and thought he was undone.
It is not luxury that causes our pleasure, but a self-controlling mind, since without this – even though one should obtain and have everything – he will feel as if deprived of everything and will mourn, like the man of whom we are now speaking…So these men, by how much more they have grasped, find themselves in greater poverty, and they who gain more than others are the very persons to be the most in want.