On the Proper Use of Our Prosperity


“In the last fifty years we have had a material prosperity in this country the like of which was never beheld before. A prosperity which not only built up great industries, great transportation systems, great banks and a great commerce, but a prosperity under whose influence arts and sciences, education and charity flourished most abundantly. It was little wonder that men came to think that prosperity was the chief end of man and grew arrogant in the use of its power. It was little wonder that such a misunderstanding arose that one part of the community thought the owners and managers of our great industries were robbers, or that they thought some of the people meant to confiscate all property. It has been a costly investigation, but if we can arrive at a better understanding of our economic and social laws it will be worth all it cost…Let us frown upon greed and selfishness, but let us also condemn envy and uncharitableness. Let us have done with misunderstandings, let us strive to realize the dream of democracy bu a prosperity of industry that shall mean the prosperity of the people, by a strengthening of our material resources that shall mean a strengthening of our character, by a merchandising that has for its end manhood, and womanhood, the ideal of American Citizenship” — Calvin Coolidge, Boston, December 15, 1916 (emphasis added)

As we approach another Christmas, we find Coolidge was speaking of that season not for its material largesse or the mere accumulation of things that America represents to many. Instead, he was referring to that state of mind he later mentioned Christmas actually is: the gathering and harnessing of those material things which develop the soul and mature the character, the ingredients that equip us to better serve those around us (through whatever work we do) and keep kindled in ourselves the indestructible, life-giving, and transformational love Christ offers. “To know,” as Dickens put it, “how to keep Christmas well” not only one day of the year but all the days of the year.

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