Summary: Gaining authentic riches means embracing the way of life over the way of death. The way of life means constant companionship and reconciled relationships, all in the risen Christ.
They promised me an income of up to ten thousand dollars a week. It would come in the easiest of ways; all I would have to do would be to sit at home and wait for it to pour in. They said the money would mount up effortlessly. Up to ten thousand dollars a week, made by promoting certain products, products which everyone would surely want, and by recruiting other promoters just like myself. I would not only be selling the soap, or shampoo, or floor wax, products. More than that, I would be selling franchises. I would be selling dreams, pushing out messages like the one I had just received, reaching everybody I could find through my computer. And from each patsy, er, I mean, each person, who nibbled, I would reap a bounty. Effortless money, up to ten thousand a week.
So ran the brightly colored blurb that came across my computer screen the other day. As you know, from seeing the news this week about the Heaven’s Gate people, today’s entrepreneurs don’t worry with bulk mailings and slick brochures. Today they use the Internet and create colorful web pages. But on paper or in cyberspace, a pyramid is still a pyramid, and I passed on that one, thank you, having noted that they did mention “up to” ten thousand a week, but didn’t mention how “far down” I might have to dig first. Some other time, thank you.
Still, there is a kind of wistful attractiveness to it, isn’t there? We all dream of getting ahead. We all dream of making it big. We all imagine a life in which the money doesn’t run out before the month does. Man, I sure hope the church treasurer has not forgotten that tomorrow is the last day of the month; my plastic is well worn! Don’t you get tired of running to the bank with this week’s pay check in order to cover last week’s bills, already written and mailed? We all dream of possessing a sure thing, and, this close to tax time, who isn’t looking for that magic fix! Ed McMahon, we could use you and your might-have-already-won letters right now!
But, of course, we know that such plans pay off for practically nobody. We know that one in a million hits the right combination. We know that one in ten million strikes it rich on the lottery. We know that even when we sit at home and fantasize ourselves playing “Wheel of Fortune” and being awarded a new Jeep Cherokee by Vanna, we know that it happens to only a precious few. About all most of us can do is to fantasize about it.
Unless there just might be a way to get what we want without laboring for it, day and night, week after endless week. Unless there is a sure-fire approach to success and happiness. Unless!
Actually there are two such possibilities. There are two ways we might actually get this elusive happiness thing. One of these is through the way of death. And the other is through the way of life. The way of death and the way of life.
Let’s think, first, for a minute, about the way of death. You can get rich by the way of death. People do every day.
Some get rich by sheer, brazen violence. Theft, burglary, mugging, all the rest. We live in a community which is beginning to feel an assault from this pattern. Just a few days ago one of our members told me that he could no longer put anything at all outside, because it would just walk away. Everything from lumber to tools to garden equipment would just disappear in his neighborhood. In fact, sometimes the garden itself; I can name you people in this community who have even lost azaleas to thieves who just come in and dig them up. Steal! That’ll work. That’s one way to get what you want. But it is part of the way of death.
It’s part of the way of death because it doesn’t care what it does to others or what it takes from them. It’s part of the way of death because it would just as soon take away a life as take away a wallet. Again, just a week ago, one of our members found himself pushed half into the open trunk of his car, with a gun barrel shoved against his neck and a demand for money shoved down his throat. Thanks be to God, it ended without anyone being hurt, but it was nonetheless part of the way of death.
But theft isn’t the only thing in the way of death. Business owners who force immigrant laborers to work for pennies, holding over their heads the threat of deportation back to some oppressive place are using the way of death to get rich. Firearms dealers who hide behind the “right to bear arms” clause in the Constitution and who mask as sportsmen, knowing full well that their guns will be used on the streets... they are using the way of death.