land of the rich…

my second-grader blew my mind the other day.  at an age when parents assume the natural inclination of a young child is to be quite selfish…our daughter came home and told us what she had purchased with her hard earned points in her classroom auction.  as she stood in front of me with her backpack…she reached inside and pulled out a flimsy gardening hat and said, “dad, i used all of my points to buy a hat for grandma since she lost all of her hair through cancer treatment.”  as a father, I am not sure I have ever been more proud of my child and her selflessness.

honest conversations about Jesus’ perspective on wealth, greediness, and the rich are some of the most difficult to have in the church.  some may get upset and leave the church, or just quit giving their tithe if they are offended by how the preacher explains Jesus’ tough words on possessions.  there may be others who believe they are exempt from the difficult words of Jesus if they satisfy a “10% tithe.”  while these reactions are concerning for any professed follower of Jesus, maybe the most ignored reason why these conversations are so difficult…or why they fall on deaf ears…is that we believe Jesus is talking about rich people and we do not consider ourselves rich.

it is easy for us as Christians in the United States to dismiss the words of Jesus because we do not view ourselves as rich or as inherently greedy.  why would we think of ourselves that way?  we see movie stars, athletes, and other celebrities on television and convince ourselves that we are middle or lower class.  even closer to home we drive down our city streets and see people driving $35,000 cars and trucks and convince ourselves that we are not rich.  we make a meager wage.  we have a simple home compared to “the rich.”  we don’t drive the best or nicest cars comparatively.  we certainly do not view ourselves as rich by comparison in the United States.

if our means for comparison is limited by proximity (to those we live close to) it’s no wonder we do not view ourselves as “rich.”  our context shapes our thoughts and attitudes.  yesterday a lady on the radio said, “we don’t even view millionaires as rich anymore.”  wow…really?  we don’t view a millionaire as rich anymore?  how and when did a million dollars become so commonplace?  our lens for viewing wealth has made us quite myopic.  when we view ourselves as middle to lower class citizens…and when we are surrounded by others like us…we isolate ourselves from the broader reality of (and inequity of) wealth in the world.  if we don’t see the problem, then the problem does not exist.  it is easy to consume and hoard when our context is so limited and narrow.

to be amongst the top 10% of the richest people in the world you only have to have $60,000 in ASSETS…not money alone…ASSETS.  the top 10% controls 85% of the worlds total global assets.  all of this while 50% of the worlds’ adult population owns less than 1% of all global wealth.

we are the rich.  even those we consider poor in the United States are rich globally. 

can you imagine watching ten kids sitting at a table preparing to eat with each other.  in the middle of the table is a large supreme pizza cut into ten pieces.  one child takes nine of the pieces of pizza for himself…while the other nine children share one piece.  this sounds so exaggerated and ridiculous!  but it is a simple and accurate representation of the larger world that we live in.  what would you…as an adult…say to the one child that took NINE PIECES for himself?  SHARE!!!  QUIT BEING SO SELFISH!!!  you might even tell the child that he is out of his mind for thinking like that.  a scenario like this certainly makes one wonder how we operate by such a double standard.    

have you every heard a skeptic ask, “if God is so loving and compassionate then why does He allow people to die of hunger in Africa?”  maybe the problem isn’t God, but the people who ought to be continuing the blessing from God by sharing rather than hoarding and consuming more than we need.  in God’s economy, the rich do not get richer and the poor do not get poorer.  God blesses us so we can bless our brothers and sisters (see Deuteronomy 15).  although the previous scripture is direction from God to the Israelites as to how they are to take care of the poor in their land, i can’t imagine that God would not want us, as the Church, to care for the poor in the 21st century. 

there is nothing that would make a Father happier than to see His children giving everything they have so selflessly to anyone and everyone in need.

*the [living] room is a partner with New Song Mission in Brown County, Indiana.  New Song Mission will offer 3 to 9 foster homes and a school to abandoned children on 100 acres in beautiful Brown County and is currently in the process of beginning development.  through this caring community…children will experience the truth that nothing can ever separate them from the love and healing of Jesus.

over the next several months the [living] room would like to be a catalyst to help raise the necessary funds for the development of this God honoring mission.  without being too specific…New Song’s dollar target is in the millions.  would you please give a tax-deductible donation today.  send it to the address below and 100% of the funds will be given to New Song.  please email me at brandon@the-living-room.org if you have questions.

send a tax-deductible check made out to: 

The Living Room, P.O. Box 1358, Columbus, Indiana 47202

peace always…

brandon

3 thoughts on “land of the rich…

  1. i thought i should add this…because someone may think i am advocating a governmental system that redistributes wealth. that is exactly NOT what i am talking about. in fact, if the Church was to begin helping the poor, orphan, and widow as we should, one could make the case that the government would not be depended on so much by so many.

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  2. just reading about Anna’s actions pulled on my heartstrings. I bet it really touched you. It should serve as validation that you and Jenny are raising the right kind of kids… kids that think of others before themselves and are empathic of others’ pain. I know you didn’t mention that to get praise. Just making an observation.

    This is no breaking news, but I struggle with materialism myself, and I’m sure the majority of us do seeing as how we’re surrounded by it day in/day out. We choose to be programmed to think a certain way by television, corporate America and our immediate surroundings. Charmin and I were just discussing last night how pathetic and mind stunting the television is. We pay $80/month for this crap and on top of it ~30% or more of the content is paid advertisements?? Break it down further and I would say only 10% of the content is valuable, educational viewing. That may be over selling it, too. What if, instead of commercials, there were educational and thought provoking shorts? (not like gymshorts). Think mini-nooma’s…

    It’s naive to think that would ever happen because it would cut into someone’s bottom line. The money making machinery is well-oiled. The older I get the more I’m sickened and appalled at what we as a country are willing to sacrifice, and not sacrifice, for money. We have it all jacked up. I’m part of the problem, I know. We are making strides to not be a pawn in this madness (and that is what it is) and instead looking for ways to consume less and value the real assets in this world… people.

    I appreciate you posting your thoughts on this subject…

    g

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  3. This topic of wealth has played on my mind a lot over the past few years. I too struggle with letting go and remembering that everything is God’s anyway and we are just stewards of what He has given us. I don’t tend to struggle with material things, but I do struggle with thinking that money is a security and relying on it too much. In terms of looking at wealth in and of itself, we need to be careful not to point the finger at people whom we think have too much. I know of some people who have a lot of money, but I also know that they freely give a lot of money. I think that Brandon raises a good point, if we get to the bottom of comparisons (globally) we will find that we are in that top percentage who are considered wealthy. So what does this mean for us in terms of being generous as Paul talks about in Corinthians Chapter 8? One quote comes to mind that has helped me get my head around this topic “Generosity flows from simplicity, not abundance”. Lets think about this for a minute. When we here news about a person with billions of dollars, giving millions away to charity, is this really being generous? Or let me put it this way, if we give a tenth of our income away, do we feel generous? And is this what is required of us? (the topic of tithing is another discussion) When I think about what it means to live simply, so others can simply live, I think of wealth being the great deception as Jesus talks about in the Bible. If we only had this, or if I only had this much, then everything would be OK. The deception of wealth is not living in the moment. Not being content with what we have been given is not living in the moment. When we are tempted with the deception of wealth, we need to continually remember our neighbours who are struggling for their next meal or a place to live. It is in these times that we realise just how blessed we are to have a roof over our head, clothes on our back and enough food to meet our needs. Life becomes much simpler.
    I realise what I talk about here only touches the surface of this topic.

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