I'm Not as Poor As I Believe

This past Sunday, Eugene Cho spoke at church. Eugene is the pastor of Qwest, a Covenant church in Seattle and the founder of One Day's Wages, a movement to give up one day's income (which is something like .3% of your yearly salary) to help people who are living on less than $2 a day.

He spoke on a common topic of his: money, our possessions and how we use them. Jesus tells us that we can't serve both Mammon (money) and God. Mammon is not a god, of course, but it becomes a competitor of our worship. Most of us typically spend 80 - 85% of our waking time earning, spending or dreaming about money. It can control us, or we can control it.

We must simply acknowledge that money is a tool. It is not good nor evil (though we often quote that "money is the root of all evil", the Bible actually says "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil"). We have the freedom to choose to use it in good or evil ways. But we must choose or it will choose us.

We also need to constantly remind ourselves how blessed we are. Using my wife's salary (since I get very little income in my current role), she discovered on the Global Rich List that she is the 394,655,173rd riches person in the world. Not a very impressive number until you know that means that she is in the top 6.57% riches people in the world. Even if I take in just $1000 per year from watching my niece, writing some magazine articles and doing other odd jobs, I am still wealthier than 65% of the world. We can place our emphasis on God's blessings on us, or focus on what we don't have. But God reminds us in gentle, rebuking ways: "You are blessed." When we look at those statistics of our ranking in the world's wealth, we can no longer say "those rich people." It now us to be "we rich people." God doesn't bless us simply so we can enjoy that blessing by ourselves.

Eugene reminded us that "generosity rescues us from the abyss of our greed." Of course, generosity isn't just about money. We our called to be generous with all we have: our possessions, or talents, our time. But we're not allowed to sit back and think that we're too poor to do anything. We are indeed, truly blessed.


melpbaby said...

Oh wow! That website is stunning. Thanks for the reminder!

Ariah said...

Thanks for a solid thoughtful post. At the same time, this is where I get a little antsy about the word "blessed." The Bible clearly talks about the poor being the ones who are blessed. "We rich people" are the ones who get woed. I think that's an important thing to keep in mind. Woe to us. We tend to like to give out of a sense of charity and good deed, but maybe some of our giving should be out of fear of the woes we've received. Does that make sense?

Rev. Dave said...

Ariah, I totally agree. At the same time, the Bible does use "blessing" in terms of material possessions (I haven't looked into if there are different Hebrew words for spiritual & material blessing). Such as of Abraham (Gen. 24:35), Isaac (Gen. 26:12), Obed-Edom (2 Sam. 6:12) and of course Job (Job 42:12) among others.

I think this duality of blessing is shown in Matthew's & Luke's takes on the Beattitudes. Matthew says the poor in spirit are blessed while Luke only says poor. Matthew says blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness while Luke says blessed are those who are hungry.

I think any blessing (even spiritual ones) can become a curse if we look upon them as our own and forget we are stewards of what God has blessed us with. I will stick my neck out and say that God will bless people with wealth. But they in turn are supposed to bless others. No blessing is ours to hoard.

Trouble comes when we only look at our wealth status as being blessed or not. Trouble comes when we withhold generosity. Trouble comes when we seek the material instead of the spiritual and relational. So, the poor tend to be better off than the wealthy. Solomon fell because of his wealth (as did many kings after him). The rich man had his life taken from him from storing up his harvest and building bigger barns.

We all have woes & blessings. We need to count our blessings (giving praise to God and remembering that we are to be generous), and heed or woes (turning from our folly and humbly turning to Christ).