“Like the hired laborer looks first to his task, and after to his daily food, so ought we to mind first those things which concern the glory of God, then those which concern our own profit.” –From “Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas,” pg. 55. Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.
This is a practical reminder and exhortation to the practice of poverty, as well as to trusting in God to provide for us all that we need. God is never outdone in generosity, and what we give Him in diligently pursuing our spiritual duties and practicing virtue, even to the expense of not taking care of our bodily or recreational needs, He will repay us generously in the way that we need it most.
We must be careful to take what comes to us, because all of it comes hand-crafted from our Heavenly Father. He does not give to us anything we cannot handle; in fact, most of our trials in this life, though difficult, are on a much more mundane level than we read of in the great martyrologies and lives of the saints. We have opportunities each day to render to God what is due to Him, namely our love and all of our daily duties, those things that are expected of us. So when we take care to ‘mind first those things which concern the glory of God,’ of what is our Saint speaking? From what I can gather, he is speaking of our duties of our state of life and our spiritual obligations. When we fulfil our duties well, to the best of our ability, we bring glory to God by being obedient, by being good servants for His sake. And when we offer our mornings and evenings to God, saying our Rosaries or observing our other chosen devotions, we consecrate all of these works to Him so that they may be beneficial for us and bring glory to Him. Also in prayer, we necessarily praise God and offer Him thanks for all that He has given us and enabled us to accomplish and for His protections, and confess our guilt in whatever way we may have strayed and resolve to serve Him ever more zealously the next day. All of this brings glory to God, and all of this, says our Saint, ought to be minded first.
Then, once we have minded these things, we should attend to those things ‘which concern our own profit’, such as our bodily needs (meals, showers, rest) and our recreational needs, which also profit us by refreshing our minds and offering repose from the labors of our state. I know in my own experience, I have been pleasantly surprised by how much time God provides for these things, if only we are faithful to tend first to those things which are due Him. For example, saying our morning prayers as soon as possible after we arise is a good way to offer up the whole day. Sometimes it is not quite possible to pray or to perform our duties right away, but as soon as possible they should be attended to and should be as high of a priority as possible. God rewards us generously for our efforts, and He sees the heart which is intent on serving Him first and foremost. As long as we are striving for this, we are well on our way to practicing poverty and trust in God’s providence. When we are faithful to Him, He is more than faithful to us, and provides us with all that we need, when we need it, and often more than we need. Let us not doubt His goodness, but rely wholeheartedly on it by serving Him first before we serve ourselves.