The desire of many people is to become rich, or at least, to achieve a reasonable level of financial independence. Christians should be mindful of how we achieve that goal and what we do if we achieve it.
In 1994, I was among a group of about six employees who visited our employer’s facilities in Moss Point and Pascagoula, Mississippi area of the USA. In the City of Moss Point, while we were waiting one morning for our ride, all dressed up in our corporate attire, some school children were walking along the street towards us on their way to school.
As they came closer, one of them, a boy of about 8 years old, broke away from his friends and walked towards me. After we exchanged greetings, he politely asked me, “Sir, are you rich?” It was not immediately apparent to me what motivated the boy to single me out for that question. However, it dawned on me after he left that I was the only black person among the group of white people. The boy was white, and he probably felt safe with other whites around me.
I found the question amusing and admired the courage of the boy who dared to ask a total stranger on the street about such a private and sensitive matter. As a father of three children at that time, two of whom were almost the boy’s age, I was used to inquisitive questions and comments from children that age. And so I did not want to get philosophical with the curious boy about what he meant by rich, why he singled me out, or why the question was important to him.
Therefore, in order to humor the boy and not disappoint him or keep him waiting for long, I jokingly answered “Yes” with a big smile. It seemed that was all the boy wanted to hear. He smiled back, thanked me profusely, and took off happily to join his friends as if he had made a major discovery. I believe he had an interesting story to tell his friends and family.
Was the boy happy because he might have won a bet with his friends since they probably saw me from a distance and talked about me? Did my presence among my white colleagues in corporate attire create a presumption of richness in his mind? In any case, I was happy that I satisfied the curiosity of a small boy and made him happy, but did I answer correctly without knowing the basis and parameters of his question?
How would you answer if a small boy were to ask you the same question today: are you rich? The answer to this simple question may not be as easy as you think. It may depend on many things. For example, are we talking about “rich” as in money or material wealth on this earth, or treasures in heaven? If we are talking about earthly riches, and we classify people as rich or poor, what is the baseline above which a person is rich and below which a person is poor? It may also be relative as among people in a society, community or country. If we think about the matter broadly, many people who do not consider themselves rich may be richer than they think, and those who consider themselves poor may not be as poor as they think.
Regardless of our answers, all who are rich or desire to be rich in this world need to be concerned about the means by which that goal is achieved. We need to be guided by the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36 NIV). To gain the whole world is to actively crave and acquire the things that the world loves and offers: power, authority, money, riches, wealth, influence, fame, pleasure etc. To forfeit or lose one’s soul is to separate oneself from God. In this context, we lose our soul when we sacrifice our loving relationship with God in pursuit of worldly gains.
The separation or sacrifice may not always come as a dramatic event where a person consults a shrine and swears an oath of allegiance to a deity, and thereby worships another god or idol besides the Almighty God. Rather, it may be a gradual process whereby we violate God’s laws to achieve our goals; or when we cheat others, steal from them, oppress and impoverish others, or otherwise trample on the rights of others to enrich ourselves or achieve other worldly goals.
Engaging in some of the above-mentioned vices may make us “rich in things and poor in soul.” In the third stanza of the hymn, “God of Grace and God of Glory,” written by Harry Emerson Fosdick, we sing the following words:
Cure thy children's warring madness, bend our pride to thy control; shame our wanton, selfish gladness, rich in things and poor in soul. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, lest we miss thy kingdom's goal, lest we miss thy kingdom's goal. (Emphasis mine)
The hymnist points out that some people are rich in things and poor in soul. As a result, they may miss the goal of God’s kingdom. He attributes this to our tendency to engage in wars, pride, wantonness, and selfishness. Trying to get rich at all costs or by any means necessary puts us on the path of losing our soul - gradually. We need to ask God to grant us wisdom and courage to find and stay on the straight and narrow path.
Are you rich? If you are rich or desire to be rich, here is a warning or advice by Jesus: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV).
How do we heed Jesus’ warning or advice? The Apostle Paul shows a practical way for those who are rich in things, to be also rich in soul. Paul provides this advice to the rich through Timothy: Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:17-19 NIV). Hope in God, good deeds, generosity, and sharing help to lay treasures in heaven.
Prayer is the key. May God grant us the grace to seek Him daily through our prayers.
Dr. Daniel Gyebi, Attorney-at-Law, Texas, U.S.A., and Founder, PrayerHouse Ministry, Kumasi, Ghana.
PrayerHouse Ministry is dedicated to providing a quiet facility for Christians to pray individually by themselves without any intermediary priest, pastor or any other person. This is a free service. No money is demanded or accepted. One facility is located at Kyerekrom / Fumesua, near Building and Road Research Institute Offices, one mile off the Kumasi-Accra Road and next to a house called Grace Castle.
If you are interested, please contact Agnes at 054-7498653. Another is located at Kantinkyiren, at the junction of Kantinkyiren and Konkori, off the Kumasi-Obuasi Road, branching left at Trede junction. Contact Kwadwo at 020-8768461 / 0246-989413.
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