Wow…never thought I would utter those words out loud never mind for the world to read. For that matter I was raised under the impression I was not at all well off and often worried about money–about ends meeting. Money was the source of guilt and confusion. I felt guilty spending it and never felt like there was enough of it. Truly rich people were seen on Life Styles of the Rich and Famous, or MTV Cribs. Donald Trump…now that guy is rich. Me? Not so much.
Reality check and perspective switch. The more my eyes have been opened to the poverty of this world the more I have started to become aware of my own wealth. I mean this in every sense of the monetary word. I am FILTHY rich. Like me, you and everyone else who is able to read this on their lap top computer is FILTHY rich too!
Now I am about to step on toes because we don’t like to be painted with that brush…we don’t want to be poor but we don’t like to be considered RICH. That reference has it’s own stigmas to entertain. So take a deep breath and sit back in your discomfort as we discuss something I cannot shake. I have been uncomfortable (by myself) for too long in this…might as well bring some friends along with me! This subject causes me to lose sleep at night and is something I must address in my own life so that I can make sense of the madness. To walk through this is uncomfortable and I have had a little more time than you to digest the issue…so I will try to be tactful…but I am discovering that there is a reason we woke up on this part of the planet. I want to figure out more of what this reason is and what I am going to do about it. You might find the answer (for you) too in the process. I am absolutely sure my journey does and will not look like your journey…each response is unique and as individual as your fingerprint. Yet, I will venture to say full life entails finding an answer to these questions. “We are just blessed,” DOESN’T CUT IT.
Wealth has consumed my thoughts, conversations, dreams and nightmares. Every book I open speaks of this message, my quiet times are filled with questions and dialog–what does all this mean–what do I do with this information–how do I live here but ache for those there? Below are my writings and ramblings in response to something that recently was jumping off the page from Luke.
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
What does man or woman’s life consist of? Important question to ask of one surrounded by her own comforts, possessions, and a culture obsessed with comforts and possessions. What am I about? Who am I about? What does my life consist of?
Then the next verses flow so beautifully telling the story of a man whose crop produced so abundantly, he had no place to store it all. He decided to tear down his barns and build BIGGER ones. He follows it by: “I will say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat drink and be merry.’” This is the epitome of the American way/dream. Work hard, save, collect, store up riches, build bigger, better, more. It is counter-cultural to think any other way. This is the “goal” of so many people that I know (present company included until recently)…and yet—the Word is saying: this is not life. More strongly it explains…this is a life that does not acknowledge the very gift it has been given. In the parable life is to be more than “storing things up for himself…” life is about being “rich toward God.” So what does this look like? I do think it starts with giving. But is there more? I cannot help but think about Matthew 25. Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me…would not this be considered being “rich” toward God? What other ways might I learn that life does not consist of abundance of possessions? How else might I be rich toward God? Teach me.
Beautifully the next section leads the reader to the question of needs. (And wants.) 12:22-31. Do not worry you say about what we will eat, drink, and wear. Look at how the Creator takes care of the needs of creation—will He not take care of us?
I love last part of the passage: “Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” 12:32 My friend Sarah who goes to Africa every few months works with women. Some who have been trafficked, some who are working as prostitutes, some who have so many babies they cannot feed themselves, some who are diseased, sick, dying. She recently said, “growing up white and in the western world is the equivalent to winning the lottery.” Wow. I cannot tell you how many times those words have pervaded my dreams and nightmares. The lottery. Our best day is RICHES in the light of the rest of the world. We live as kings and queens. We have a car. A house that doesn’t leak. Food daily. Healthcare. Over a billion people live on less than a one dollar a day. Even if you only use public transportation you are likely in the top 15% of the wealthiest people on the planet. Oh my stars it goes on and on. (References are from Radical but can be googled just about anywhere. Radical…another purchase that both turned my stomach and kept me riveted until the very last page.)
So in reading this passage I cannot help but be touched by these words: “Your father is PLEASED to GIVE YOU THE KINGDOM.” Really? I am not worthy of winning the lottery…I did nothing to deserve it. Yet He is pleased to give it to me? So now the real question surfaces: What am I going to do with the winnings that I have received? Am I going to store them up? Build larger barns? Am I going to attempt to find life in the abundance of my possessions?
I also like that He says, “do not be afraid, little flock…” Money makes us feel safe. Comfortable. How awesome to consider that He gently recognizes how scary it is to tithe. He understands it would be scary to down size…or give more away than we are comfortable giving. Does winning the lottery actually call us to live with less? What does this look like? Does it mean sacrificing “wants” or conveniences that give ME comfort to provide basic needs for those who are without? I (eeek) think that it does. It has been projected by UNICEF that between 2000-2020 that 68 million Africans will die of AIDS. In the US there have been only a handful of reported cases of death due to AIDS since the early 1990s. Here in the Western World HIV is considered a chronic illness but not a life-threatening disease. Jackpot–once again I win. I need these reminders to give perspective when I start to think about the actual daily sacrifices (like soy lattes, dinners out, $ in our savings account, kids’ activities, vacations, land, square footage) to make this an easier pill to swallow. I am given the opportunity to live with less lottery winnings so that others might live and not die.
“Do not be afraid little flock.” Translation: “Jenni, little lamb…I love you and these words I am about to say are hard to hear cause it is scary to not be comfortable: “sell your possessions and give to the poor.” Luke 12:33 Not easy words to read never mind act upon. Gently I can almost hear Him say, “my little lambs…trust…do not fear…this is where life begins. Life begins by letting go of the lottery…”
Because let’s face it friends…we are FILTHY RICH.
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,