Any preacher on any given Sunday in America could address his Sunday morning audience as a “gathering of people who might be considered rich.” I did this recently to a small auditorium of several rural congregants yet folk who represented various professions and varying age groups. To prove my thesis, I merely recited some readily available statistics which demonstrate that two out of five people of the world live on less than three dollars a day. One of four children have to drop out of school to work and of the more than two billion children in our world today, half of them live in poverty.
So, I think it safe to say that in the USA even the most underprivileged, compared to other world citizens, are “rich.” The average annual income of the world’s working man/woman is less than $10,000. How about it? Are you wealthy or not?
Now, Jesus warned that it is extremely difficult for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God, because a rich person trusts riches. He even used the “absurd” illustration of a camel getting through the eye of a needle, warning that it would be easier for a camel to accomplish that seemingly impossible feat, than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God. The eye of the needle in Jesus’ day was a very small opening in the city wall that, when the main gates of the city would close at dusk, a man only with great difficulty could crawl through. It was about as unthinkable to imagine a camel going through this very small opening as it would be to believe that a rich person, trusting his wealth, would get into the kingdom of God. (Mark 10: 17-25)
So, here in America, awash in wealth, it is conceivable to think the average dinner table on any weeknight in a middle-class household is set more abundantly than one that would have been set for regents of ancient kingdoms. Little wonder then that we ought to give diligent attention to Paul’s instructions to Timothy: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” (I Tim. 6:16) The most desperate pauper can enjoy the chirping of a bird or the frolicking of cats or the brilliance of a sunset. What riches! How relevant the wise man’s query: “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Provs. 23:5) And, Solomon ought to know. He tells us in Ecclesiastes that he amassed an incalculable amount of material wealth and possessions, including silver, gold and “peculiar treasure…more than all that were before me…and whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them…then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought…and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” (Eccl. 2:8-11)
I read what Andrew Carnegie once said about riches. “I was born in poverty and would not exchange its sacred memories with the richest millionaire’s son who ever lived. Some men think that poverty is a dreadful burden and that wealth leads to happiness. What do they know about it? They know only one side—they imagine the other. I have lived both and I know there is very little wealth that can lead to happiness. Millionaires who laugh are rare.”
So, “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.” (I Tim. 6:6-8)
“But they that would be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” (I Tim. 6:9)