Have you ever been reading those Bible verses about the rich and the first image that comes to mind is that million dollar home along the coast? Or when you read in Matthew 19 that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” have you ever thought the verse is talking about the rich in their Hollywood mansions and fancy cars? Or that because you are constantly “tight on money” these verses couldn’t possibly apply to you?
But when 71% of the global population makes less than $10 a day while the U.S. federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, could it be that our constant stress about money is a product of a limited perspective? Could it be that when we place ourselves in the grander scheme of world economics, not just next to the Bill Gates-type billionaires, we actually come out to be the wealthy ones? Could it be that our stress about money might not be coming from our lack of finances but our inability to be good stewards of them?
Do we get so focused on acquiring material things, keeping up with the latest trends, owning all the latest models, that we never see the money we do have as enough? Could it be that our constant pursuit of “wealth” that tends to result in busyness is actually distracting us from what God has commanded – to put our hope in God rather than our money, to be generous and willing to share (1 Timothy 6:17-19)? And when the surplus from our paychecks goes towards our fifteenth pair of shoes or the latest iPhone model while some of our neighbors don’t have meals tonight, could our priorities be a little skewed? When our tithes are going towards remodeling our church buildings to be more “hip” or towards expensive technology to make worship feel like a concert, are we forgetting that our tithe was intended to provide for the poor and sojourner (Leviticus 23:22)?
When did we who have always had our needs met and usually had some excess to save or spend allow this financial stability to cloud our vision? When did we forget that “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” (Luke 12:48)? Don’t these words of Jesus imply that we who have more financial cushion have more responsibility, not less? Could this mean that the money we’ve been given was not intended to be a privilege to purchase all that our hearts desire, but a calling to live a poured out life for those lacking life’s most basic necessities?
Is it possible that those we deem as “poor” because of financial need are richer than we are in other capacities? Is it possible that financial poverty deepens faith that God will provide because if He doesn’t, the kids won’t eat tonight? Is it possible that those who can’t afford the latest technology are enjoying depths of relationships we might miss when our attention is constantly distracted from our family and friends? Is it possible that financial need is a daily reminder of dependence on God, while financial stability convinces us we can provide for ourselves and therefore leaves us ignorant of our deep need for our Savior?
If we started to walk in obedience to God’s command to live generously, would we start building bridges between who society deems to be “rich” and “poor?” If we started sacrificing the purchase of another pair of jeans in exchange for sharing a meal with those otherwise left hungry, would our perspective on what it means to be wealthy begin to change? If we started living in community with those we define as impoverished, would we be open to receiving friendship, hospitality, and a few lessons on what it means to live life in celebration of Jesus?
Are we bold and brave enough to overcome our fear of discomfort and start giving generously to those lacking food, shelter, family, health, home? Are we willing to give with extended hands, not clinging too tightly to our material comforts? Are we open to receiving the non-material wealth of wisdom and love that can come from those living in “poverty?” Are we loving Jesus without reservation so that he has the freedom to grow us in our understanding of what it means to be generous, compassionate, and hospitable?
Can we follow the words of Desmond Tutu who, when serving communion, says, “may we become what we’ve received”? If we have already received both worldly riches and the grace of Jesus, which are we becoming?