Lazarus, Dives, and the goddess Fortuna

Fortuna and wheel

Remember, my rich child, you received what was good during your lifetime, while Lazarus received what was bad. But now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. (Luke 16:25)

The goddess Fortuna. She plies her wheel. She has no true justice and therefore no eternal power. But, during our pilgrim lives, she exercises a foresight far greater than ours, and she wields her immense power over us with arbitrary cruelty.

She doles out the privileges of birth. She teaches the smooth language of ingratiation, and all the other people-pleasing skills. She schools her attentive pupils in the acts of cynical worldliness. She maintains a shallow but vast system that rewards cowardice and mediocrity with affluence and prestige.

Meanwhile, she buffets the humble. She slaps and punches the sincere. She crucifies the honest. She drowns the truly great in an ocean of obscurity.

Fortuna seduces the souls that serve her. They gradually start to believe the she does, in fact, dole out justice. They begin to measure themselves by their material wealth and media fame. They think: Oh, isn’t this nice! I have succeeded, thanks to my talent, my charm, my extraordinary skill! And the losers at the gate? Let them rot.

But Fortuna has no real love for anyone. She will always take away everything she gives. Then her followers, whom she has seduced into slavery—they have nothing in their hands but dust.

Why has the Lord God Almighty conceded to Fortuna so much clout, so much worldly power? Is it because His justice gets served when people fall for Fortuna’s specious ‘prosperity gospel,’ and then, in the end, wind up in hell, right alongside their mistress?

Maybe. But one thing we know for sure: God lets Fortuna exercise her shallow but extensive authority in order to purify us for higher things. When we suffer her blows, but then look to heaven instead of whimpering, she loses, and we win.

The good God who sent His eternal Son to suffer and die, as the world’s greatest “loser”—that true God offers us something that Fortuna can only look at from a distance and wish she could have.


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