Summary: How should American's handle our wealth? Should those who are wealthy feel guilty about special vacations and favorite hobbies. Should we sell everything if we want to be real follower of Jesus?
Today, we talk about something that requires wisdom and diligence to handle correctly. It is something we have all held in our hands at one time or another. It has the power for good, but it also has the power to destroy. Despite its power, it is something we all need. I’m talking about money. It is a truth in this world that you and I cannot live in this world without handling money.
In handling money we see another truth. In the world there will be those who are rich compared to others.
Wealth has never been and likely never WILL be evenly distributed. Good or bad it is a truth in this world. Since we are in the world, it’s a truth even in our churches.
Think about this in terms of vehicles in the parking lot. There are those in the church who have the means to buy brand new cars. There are some who think a car with 100,000 miles on it is just broken in. There are some who have the latest gadgets and add ons. There are some who are afraid to scrape the rust off for fear the car will fall apart. There are a few who don’t even own a car. Because we live in the world, there will be those who have more than others even in the church. There will always be those who have more than others.
So what do those who have more need to do? Is it okay to have more? How should we handle our wealth?
My fear is that the have nots will target the haves in the congregation. Let me offer this. In preparing for this message, I found a web site that compares American income to the world’s income. The Web address is http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/why-give/how-rich-am-i. I was curious. So I used the site to calculate my own income compared to the world. When I plugged in my numbers, my salary and benefits package, I learned that at I am currently in the top 12% of the world’s wealthiest people. I was shocked. And my first thought was that I need more money because things are more expensive in the United States. The website takes the cost of living into account in their equations. The website compares what is needed to buy basic necessities to survive.
I scrolled down and discovered another more shocking analysis of being in the top 12% of the world’s wealthiest people. Right now, I make 7X more than the average person in the world to buy things that I need to survive. I learned that I am quite rich compared to the world! When I’m thinking about not having enough to eat out, the world is thinking about not having enough to put food on the table. Please understand, I am not grotesquely paid.
But let me drive home the point with another number. I found out that a family of 2 making $15,500 a year (that’s poverty level) is still in the top 18% of the world’s richest people. A family of two at poverty level in the U.S. makes almost 6X as much as the average person in the world to buy things they need to survive. I say this not because I want us to compare, but because I want us to realize something. As Americans most of us are extremely wealthy compared to the world.
Is that something we should feel guilty about? Should we get rid of our wealth, shed everything we have and give it to the poor in order to be followers of Jesus. Should we feel guilty about vacations and hobbies? What does the Bible says about wealth and how followers of Christ should use it?
The first thing we need to address today is the heart.
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Stop and consider that this is a burning spiritual question in the man’s heart. The man recognizes the existence of the spiritual world because he asks about obtaining eternal life. And this man obviously believes that Jesus is a solid authority to listen to when it comes to the question.
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
This man had obviously lived what he believed to be a morally exemplary life. But he also realized that he lacked something. Ironic because we learn a few verses later that this man is very wealthy.