Chapter XIVW. John Murray
The Realm of Reality
Divine Science Publishing Assoc.
New York, 1922.
“I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment:
That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.”
–Proverbs 8:20, 21
 A noted Hindoo teacher, visiting this country, once said that if he announced a lecture on “How to Get Rich,” the hall would be packed, but if he advertised one on “Self-Surrender,” he would not attract a baker’s dozen. He felt that the paramount object of the West, particularly of the United States, was to accumulate this world’s goods, irrespective of methods employed, or the uses to which these were to be put.
The belief has become almost universal, and while there may be some truth in it, there is another side which critics ought to consider in order that their criticism be just, even if it is not generous. When it is understood that this country is peopled largely with those who come here in order to escape from the limiting and crippling influence of poverty in all its phases, for it is very  doubtful if any one ever came here save to improve his condition, it will be seen that what seems to be feverish haste to amass wealth is nothing more or less than urgency to escape the bondage of lack and limitation. That some do not know what to do with their riches after they acquire them does not change the fact that prosperity is a universal necessity, as much as is health. That some men do not take care of their health does not change the fact that health is good, or the fact that the more we have of it the better.
If what the Master says is true, with regard to a tree being known by its fruit, it might be well for us to consider the kind of fruit which grows on the tree of poverty, for we may, by so doing, get some idea of the peculiar methods by which some persons try to get away from it. Like the deadly upas tree of Java, over which the birds will not fly because of the virulent poison which it casts off, so the tree of poverty is one which all men instinctively shun. And since this fact is so universal, there must be a reason for it.
Some time ago an old policeman, a sergeant in one of New York’s most poverty stricken localities, was asked why it was that there was so much crime in his precinct, which was one noted, not only for its adult criminals, but for its unusual amount of juvenile delinquency. Being neither a psychologist nor a social settlement worker, his answer was not the studies reply of one schooled in these speculations, but that of one who had  studied conditions at first hand during a period of twenty-five years on the force. He explained that he had noticed that the children in his precinct began at a very early age to indulge in comparisons between themselves and other children who were more fortunate. At first this attitude manifested in envy, which presently grew into covetousness, so that the little fingers began to follow the eye in the direction of an object which was very desirable, but financially unattainable. Frequently these thefts were accomplished without detection, but sometimes they were frustrated, and the method of dealing with them was not always one which ended the desire to possess things, but rather one which threw the juvenile offenders into companionship with older persons who were also seeking to escape from their common enemy, poverty.
He said, further, that poverty compelled these children to live and sleep and eat under such conditions as made home the last place they wished to go, or remain in, and so they were on the streets long after they should have been in their beds. This led to other temptations, such as stealing to go to the movies. He enumerated a list of crimes which he believed were all the outcome of poverty, and which one would never hear of in less congested and cleaner precincts. When asked if he thought the children in his territory were naturally worse than others, he replied that all children were naturally good–they needed only a chance.
 One may, or may not, agree with this philosopher of the streets, but I have never met a man who would voluntarily choose the tree of poverty under which to recline, especially if he had a family. That some monks take the “vow of poverty” is a fact; but that is not poverty which ties a man up to a “Providing Order,” which relieves the individual of all anxious concern for the future. That the monk’s life is reduced to one of austere simplicity may be true, but he is not always wondering where his next meal is coming from, nor is he lying awake nights thinking how he is going to meet the rent man who has threatened to dispossess him. The monk’s existence, to a man freighted with responsibilities, which he wants to meet, but which he finds himself unable to do, is not an altogether unenviable one. The average man does not wish to become a monk and avoid responsibility; he simply desires to be a man and meet his responsibilities in a manly way. This is as true in the sergeant’s precinct as it is in those other localities where ‘shabby gentility’ weeps in private and smiles in public. Poverty is like a precious stone in one respect, for it has many aspects, but unlike the precious stone, none of its aspects is beautiful.
The so-called man of means is not always shielded from the stings and jibes of lack, but often tosses on his bed when notes are due or overdue, and nothing but the sacrifice of one thing will enable him to keep another thing which must  be kept, if all is not to go from bad to worse. In addition to poverty being an actual condition, it is also a state of consciousness, in which one may have much and delude himself into thinking he has little. The case of the wealthy woman who passed away in New York some time ago, and concerning whose will there was so much contention, is a case in point. She was wealthy, even as we today consider wealth, and yet she lived as only a miser would live, through a persistent fear that she would end her days in the poor-house. When we think of a woman worth millions, eating at inexpensive restaurants and smuggling food into her hotel from cheap lunch counters in order to avoid ordering from the hotel menu and tipping the waiters in addition, we are not surprised that her daughter used these facts to prove that her mother was of unsound mind when she made her will. However, it is only an exaggerated instance of an almost universal insanity.
When one considers the prodigality of nature, it is a mild form of mental derangement to suppose that there can be a lack in the universe that is filled with unlimited abundance. To be sure there is inequality of distribution, but this is due to “man’s inhumanity to man,” rather than to God’s “immutable plan.” We have various recipes for the conquest of poverty. The poor are recommended to be more industrious and less extravagant, which is not bad advice to give to any class.
But there are times when the most industrious and least extravagant find themselves in what are  called straitened circumstances. War, trade fluctuations and sickness are conditions over which the most industrious and the least extravagant cannot always exercise control. It is not always because men have spent their money in riotous living that they find themselves, when their little savings are all gone, unable to purchase the remedy and food which the doctor prescribes for a sick wife or child. That poverty is due to drink and gambling in many instances is true, but frequently men and women drink and gamble as the children in the old sergeant’s precinct steal bananas or apples. They want something which instinct tells them they ought to have and, not knowing the right way to procure it, they yield to the temptation which ignorance calls the easiest way, but which subsequently proves to be the hardest way.
If a man on a small income tries to increase that income by gambling in stocks or betting on horse-races, and become more impoverished in consequence, there is little pity for him. If, on the other hand, a man resists the temptation to gamble under such circumstances, but “drinks to forget,” we have very little pity for him either, especially if the pangs of poverty have not made themselves felt in our personal experience.
One cannot pick up a high-class magazine today without seeing anywhere from one to a dozen well advertised methods by which the conquest of poverty is to be brought about. Poverty is the Hun of the economic world, and all the forces of  progression are the Allies which first defend themselves against it and then defeat it, if they can. Among such advertisements are those which recommend home-study of law, medicine, chiropractics, engineering in all its branches, and those various trainings for which correspondence schools are noted. From all of this very excellent advice, it is obvious that the conquest of poverty is to be brought about, not by muscular, but by mental energy; for all these systems rest upon the improvement of the mind along lines already in operation, or the direction of the forces in ways other than those which the aspirant to prosperity has been taking.
It is almost generally conceded that the path from poverty to power is that of mental culture, but this opinion is receiving many rather hard jolts these days if one reads some of the articles concerning doctors, ministers and college professors which are appearing in the papers. One says that the man who minds the train gets a much larger salary than the man who trains the mind; the brakeman on a freight train gets more than a teacher in a high school, while the brakeman on a passenger train gets more than an ordinary professor in a college. The conductor receives more than a college president, and the engineer’s wage, if given to the professor of chemistry or botany in most colleges, might have a tendency to turn his head. Professors and ministers of the gospel have gone into the automobile and other businesses, for the simple reason that, with the  current high cost of living, their miserable stipends were insufficient to buy shoes for their children. It would seem that when one class prospers another class suffers. War has a strange way of making the rich poor and the poor rich. It not only affects individuals, but nations, so that we are led to inquire if there is not back of it all a law which is ever working to equalize matters.
It is all so bewildering that we conclude that life on this planet is largely a game of chance, and therefore we must try to be good sports and pray for better luck on the next planet. On the principle that “God helps those who help themselves,” we have done the best we could, only to find ourselves in sore straits after all, so that the most natural question has been, “What’s the use?” Poverty is like one of those puzzle games which are invented from time to time, which we try by every means in our power to solve, only to find ourselves baffled, for we have not discovered the little trick connected with it.
In the matter of solving the problem of poverty, we have learned that a healthy body and a well-trained mind are most valuable assets, but when these fail to keep the enemy from the door, as they frequently do, then even these soon show the effect of the unequal struggle. Poverty is a wrestler which has thrown many a strong man, until he learned the hold which not even poverty can break. In struggling with limitation, the  unbreakable hold is the soul’s reliance on the eternal promises. When we have tried all the regulation tricks and our shoulders are being borne to the mat, so that the situation seems hopeless, if we can hold on to the promise that, “The Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not,” we shall wriggle out from under poverty’s grasp; we shall break away from the bondage of fear and stand upright on our feet.
Every wrestler will tell you that when he has overcome fear, the struggle becomes easier and the victory surer. We enter the arena with this old antagonist of the race in a state of mental uncertainty; its reputation terrifies us; it has thrown so many bigger and stronger men than we, and we have witnessed those unequal contents. We are really whipped before we commence, just as young boxers are defeated by the reputation of older ones. It is an astonishing thing what a reputation will do, if one is afraid of it. It is a trick among boxers to play upon the fears of youngsters who are ambitious to win. They have skill and they have strength, but there is too often a hole in their mental armor. I remember one of those unusual young men, who, when he was told of the enormous size of his opponent, in addition to his terrifying reputation, replied, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall; and when they fall their reputation goes down with them.”
 One does not look for sound philosophy from a prize-fighter, but when one finds it, one ought to apply it to those contests in human life, which, while they may be more dignified, are just as undesirable. If we could look at our approaching troubles, especially our financial ones, when they loom large on the mental horizon, and say, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall,” there would be fewer failures, and old and formidable poverty would presently lose its reputation. Other men have beaten it, and so can we, if we “put on the whole armour of God.” When a man is afraid, there is a crack in his shield, and it is through this opening that the universal enemy shoots its poisonous dart. At the close of the Civil War men who had never known the touch of want suddenly found themselves penniless. Some allowed their shoulders to be pinned to the mat and they never rose again, while others wriggled out from under and became richer than ever, not only in cash, but in character.
Poverty is a ghost which terrifies us so long as we are children in spirit, but when we are grown in Christ, we see it for the sham it is and cast it off. When all our other holds have failed, let us try this new hold; let us hold on to the promise of God, which reads, “They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” We must learn to say with the Psalmist, “All my springs are in Thee, nothing can by any means overthrow me or dismay me.” When we are not sufficient of ourselves, it is well to remember that our sufficiency  is of Him in Whom is no lack. We look for abundance with our eyes closed to its Omnipresence, but when God opens our eyes, as He opened the eyes of Hagar in the wilderness, we see what has always been here, but which we could not see before, because fear had blinded us. “The Lord shall open unto thee His good treasure” when thou openest thine eyes to see that without Him thou canst do nothing, but with Him thou canst do all things.
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