Yesterday I read a post on Dave Ramsey’s website titled, “20 Things The Rich Do Every Day." It’s a link from writer Tom Corley. You should read it. Now. So we can talk about it…
Really. I’ll wait.
So, what did you think?
Me? Oh, I was furious.
I yelled at my computer screen as I read. Here’s a glimpse into my thought process:
Is this real? Surely, this isn’t real.
Have you ever actually talked to a poor person?
Poor people eat more junk food because junk food is cheaper. A McDouble costs a dollar. A decent sized apple costs $1.40. that’s almost half again as much. You’d know that if you’d ever had to take a calculator with you to the grocery store.
Do you know why poor people can’t focus on a single goal? Because they can’t pay people to take care of all the things distracting from that goal. Poor people cook and clean and do laundry and negotiate health insurance and mow their lawn and change their oil for themselves.
When exactly is a poor kid supposed to “volunteer”? Before or after their after school job and cooking for their siblings while their mom works a night shift?
Sure, there are people who are poor because they are lazy or unfocused or whatever this list accuses poor people of being, but do you really think that most people who are poor are these things?? That if they would just ‘network for 5 hours a month’ or ‘not speak their mind’ their systemic poverty would surely be left behind as they pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, having, at the end of their hard work, only themselves to thank for their progress (not chance or good fortune or circumstance or any other outside force)??
But, those are not my biggest complaints. No, the thing I kept wondering as I read this list was this: Am I supposed to want to be rich?
'Cause, when I'm real with myself, I think I do.
But when I’m real with God and I let Him be real with me, I start to feel like that’s busted.
We live in a culture where wealth is the highest marker of value. The American dream is based on ownership. And even in the church, we allow a person’s wealth or poverty to shape the way we view their character and potential. We believe, whether or not we realize it or own up to it, that wealth demonstrates worth.
The problem with this is that it’s exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught.
In Mark 10 we find Jesus asking the rich young ruler to sell all he has. When he refuses “because he had great wealth” Jesus says, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
In Luke’s version of the sermon on the mount, Jesus says,
"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.”
If we look at His example, we’ll notice Jesus wasn’t rich. Nor did He spend one day of His life attempting to generate or save wealth. His apostles weren’t rich either.
Similarly, not once in his ministry did he offer the poor money. Food? Yes, but only a simple, single meal in the middle of nowhere. He did encourage the rich to give to the poor, but it’s possible that encouragement was more for the benefit of the rich than for the comfort of the poor. Jesus’ ministry had nothing to do with wealth or financial security.
Later in the New Testament Paul writes,
But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
But my point is that wealth is no more a marker of a person’s value than poverty. In fact, in the New Testament it’s most often regarded as a red flag.
Many Christians I know are suspicious of the poor, waiting for them to prove their intentions and character before being welcomed completely into the body. At the same time, the rich are embraced without qualm.
That is so messed up.
If we Christians want to give somebody the benefit of the doubt, we’d better be offering it to the poor first. Because do you know what Jesus said about the poor?
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. (Luke 6:20)
James says, “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”
I can’t help thinking of Matthew 25 and Jesus’ words in the final judgement when He says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” And I am struck by the way Jesus so deeply and fully attached Himself to the poorest and neediest men and women. He says, in essence, “They are Me and I am them.”
What does that tell us about wealth and poverty? Perhaps that wealth isn’t something to chase.
Unless, of course, we’d prefer a harder path to heaven. In which case, I’d suggest you look at the list again and get busy.