December 18, 2012

You are the "rich in this world"

During our Life Group bible study this evening, a friend made a very insightful point: Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, and our society is very much that rich man.

This is true. We are the rich man, and in many ways the job of an evangelist is more difficult in the affluence of the first world than in the poorest and most pagan of societies. The false god of mammon has more of a stronghold on people than the false gods of the animists.

Taking it a step further, what about how we as first world Christians read our Bibles? Since "rich" is a relative term, it is usually applied to those who are above us on the economic ladder. The "rich" are those with "wealth." When American Christians read the message that Scripture has for the rich, to whom should we apply it?

Ourselves.

If you are above the poverty line in the U.S., you are among the richest 15% of the world's population. If you make $48,000 a year or more, you are the top 1% of the world. Just because we don't feel "rich" doesn't mean we aren't. The lack of discretionary funds does not equal poverty. There are many millionaires who are saddled with debt because they are unable to live within their means. This doesn't make them poor (at least financially), it just makes them poor stewards. The fact that we have to stretch to keep up with the Jones' (or the general expectations of society) doesn't justify our stretching. I think we need to begin pointing the mirror back on ourselves as individuals and corporately as churches and begin putting ourselves into those "rich" passages.


   “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17–19, ESV)  


It is not wrong to be rich, and the Bible does not prescribe that those who are rich in this world need to make themselves not rich. However, it does give commands as to how the rich should live and use their riches. If I am unable to obey those commands, despite being rich, then I need to examine my life and determine why it is I cannot. Likewise, the same introspection should happen on a church and even national level.

This website puts our wealth into perspective:
http://www.globalrichlist.com/

It also provides some challenging facts:
"$8 could buy you 15 organic apples OR 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market.

$30 could buy you an ER DVD Boxset OR a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti.

$73 could buy you a new mobile phone OR a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda.

$2400 could buy you a second generation High Definition TV OR schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village."

Now, there is no doubt that these things really are relative to an extant - there are rich and poor in this country, those to whom the "rich" passages especially apply and those who benefit from the generosity. And it is certainly a proper recognition of God's sovereign providence that we should give priority in our good works to those in close proximity to us. However, when blessed with a connected world such as ours, when faced with such immense need in the world, isn't it proper that we examine our priorities and have the conversation - if we are indeed the rich in this world, what does God require of us?

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