Better is the end of a thing than its beginning; and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Long ago, the rich king Croesus boasted to a great sage of his wealth. “Call no man happy till he is dead,” said the sage. Later, Croesus was defeated in battle and brought in chains before his enemies where he realized the folly of his pride in passing riches. The ancient pagan Greek mind, like the modern pagan American mind, was very much alive to the reality that this world is fading away. The ancient Greek, generally being a wise pagan, responded to this with a very sensible mournfulness. The modern American, being largely a foolish pagan, responds to it with plastic surgery, with various get-rich-quick schemes, and with the general attempt to worship youth as though this will stave off our inevitable death and decay. What both forms of paganism have in common is deep and profound sadness. Neither is really capable of saying that “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning.” Both are in the hopeless business of trying to keep this world going forever. In contrast, the gospel of Christ frees us from such futility. It calls us to abandon pride and embrace patience, not out of the fascination with “low self-esteem”, but out of a deep confidence that we have real hope beyond this passing world. Christ really and truly promises that those who die in him shall indeed be called happy for all eternity.