Loot. Moola. Scratch. Greenbacks. Dough. Bank. Benjamins. Wad. Shekels. Bills. Dead presidents.
However you like to refer to your money, our lives all revolve, to some degree, around money. You might say yours doesn’t, but without money we can’t feed our kids or pay the bills or help a friend.
I posted a letter earlier this year from a person who received food from the church. They wrote, “To me, it’s exhausting. Worry, doubt, bills, food, clothing, transportation…” You could just hear the fatigue in her words.
Much has been written about the poor. I want to write today about the rich, because it can also be exhausting to have a lot of money. I know, some of you just said aloud, “I’ll take that type of exhaustion any day.” But it’s just because you haven’t walked in those shoes. We all tend to think someone else’s problems are easier than our own.
Let’s admit upfront that all of us are rich when compared to the world. According to GlobalRichList.com, if you make just $20,000 a year (which is below the U.S. poverty level for a family of three)—you are in the top 3.65% richest people in the world. In fact, if you bring home just $7,500 a year – you are still in the top 20%.
But let’s be real. Those numbers don’t reflect what it costs to live where we live, or drive to our jobs, or pay utilities for minimal housing. So for sake of this article, let’s just define “rich” as the top 5 or 10% of the people in your community. You know who they are.
Let’s be honest—there are huge blessings in being rich. You don’t have to worry about your next meal. If you have enough money, you may not even have to work. Options are available to you. Hungry? You can eat anywhere you want. Tired? You can vacation whenever and wherever you want, and can stay for as long as you want. See something you like? You can buy it.
But there are also some huge burdens that rich people carry with them every day:
- You constantly wonder if you have any true friends, or if people just hang around because you have money.
- Everyone is pressuring you. They all want a piece of your pie. Whether it’s salespersons, churches, charities, or the development department at your alma mater—everyone thinks some of your money should be in their pocket.
- You risk boredom, a lack of purpose, and pride—all which can be damaging to your soul.
The truth is, people who are rich are not much different than the rest of the population. They can be sad, empty, depressed, filled with worry, or plagued by fear. They struggle with abandonment, divorce, infidelity and death just as much as others. True joy has nothing to do with money. I’ve met some extremely sad rich people, and some incredibly satisfied and joy-filled poor people.
Two challenges for church leaders…
1. Don’t ignore rich people. Sometimes pastors will fear being accused of showing favoritism, so they completely ignore rich folks. And since these people tend to be very busy and travel a lot, they usually aren’t able to get to know people through volunteering or service projects. Sometimes pastors will show partiality to the poor and needy and ignore the rich and needy--favoritism is wrong wherever it is found.
2. Don’t approach them with your hand out. Talk to them, get to know them, take them to dinner, learn about their desires and heartaches and challenges. As you do, you will find out what makes them tick and learn about their passions and goals. There may be a time for a strategic “ask” at some point—but it should be well after a relationship has been established.
Two challenges for the rich…
1. There is nothing wrong with having lots of money. You provide services, products, and jobs and make our communities better places to live. But the Bible is clear that there is a problem with the love of money. Listen to the promptings of God and focus on meeting the needs of others. Generosity is the best antidote for the love of money.
2. Pay attention to your soul. It can be difficult to ask for help from a spiritual leader or friend because you are so independent and self-sufficient. Many times, with money comes a certain image or expectation from others. But don’t ignore areas of your life where you need help from God and others. Consider Matthew 16:26, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”