What, then, of nobility? The term derives from Latin nobilis (well-known, famous), indicating those who were “well-known” or “notable” in society, and was applied to the highest social class in pre-modern societies.[1] We previously defined magnanimity in several ways, to include “the expansion of the spirit towards great things; one who expects great things of himself and makes himself worthy of it.”[2] Granted, there is often a great separation between those of high social class and those of high moral class. This may be the case, but it is certainly not a necessity.  In fact, the point of our discussion is to seek the remedy to this state.


What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.[3] Sin, however, has done just that.  It has separated great virtue and great fame.  It has separated the marital act and the marital bond.  It has separated courage and morality. In a quote often attributed to Thucydides, we read that “That [state] which separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”


The magnanimous man will be known for his wisdom and his courage, if he is known at all.  He will be known for the great love with which he does things, and the great cause that is the foundation of his task. In a world of such great confusion, we have somehow managed not to, at least yet, call the world of Hollywood noble, even though so much of our culture seeks to copy that of these “well-known, famous” people. If they are “well known and notable in society” and counted among the “highest social class,” something in us still recognizes that this is not what we would mean by the Latin nobilis.


Only the magnanimous can unite what sinful man has “put asunder.” Only the great deeds, done before men, and that “greatness of spirit that is derived not from a man’s estimation of his person, but rather from his confidence and esteem in God,” is deserving of the title of nobility, and our hearts still know this.


See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. The mind of the rash will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear. No longer will the fool be called noble nor the scoundrel be highly respected. For the fool speaks folly, his mind is busy with evil: He practices ungodliness and spreads error concerning the Lord; the hungry he leaves empty and from the thirsty he withholds water. The scoundrel’s methods are wicked, he makes up evil schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just. But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.[4]

[2] J. Pieper, A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart, pp. 37

[3] Mark 10:9

[4] Isaiah 32:1-8


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