For Richer or For Poorer

By Tammy Skipper, Contributing Writer

Can the words of the Bible, penned to a society without master bathrooms and high speed internet, define rich and poor for us? The federal government can define poor, middle, and upper income households based on census data. Suburbanites might describe a neighbor as rich, if they have more than the average household on their street. Maybe when you think of wealth, you think of having investments or a second home.

Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Let’s flip the coin. Many families have experienced a time when they felt poor. Whether or not you’re intimately familiar with the phrase living paycheck to paycheck, it is still likely you understand the implications. Wondering how you are going to pay an electric bill or buy diapers next week burns emotion into the memory centers of your brain. Having only one car for your family or needing government assistance to buy food would be considered poor by many. If you’ve experienced foreclosure or short sale on a home, you may believe you failed to achieve the American Dream. These experiences can leave you reeling, maybe even resentful towards those who never seem to struggle. That feeling may define poor more than your pay stub ever could.

Do you believe that Jesus knows your exact financial situation?

He knows if you’re struggling to pay your bills and He knows if you failed to write a check to the charity He placed on your heart. When the stories of the rich young ruler and the poor widow were written down for us, Jesus knew what our circumstances would be today.

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.” ~ Luke 21:1-3

When the proverbs were first uttered, God knew that many of us would be ‘slave to the lender.’

“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” ~ Proverbs 22:7

Credit cards, anyone?

There are financial experts who can provide excellent advice on paying off debt, factors to consider when buying a home, or investment strategies. What few address is the heart issue.

What emotions do you experience when you think about money and how do they influence your definition of rich and poor?

“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” ~ Jeremiah 17:9

Instead of depending on our feelings then, let’s look to the scripture for the definitions. Job is an excellent example to study when evaluating our attitudes about money. When we first meet him, he has everything a man could want: a large family, vast resources, and good health. God allows Job to lose everything. Consider the level of his grief, pain, and confusion. Job experiences the loss of a child. He sees his wealth disappear into thin air. Ultimately, even his health deteriorates to the point where he yearns for death. Where does all of this loss, this poverty, take Job? Yes, he questions God, but we do not read of one instance where Job condemns others for having large flocks or celebrations with their families. His lack was not justification for passing judgment on others, any more than his wealth was a basis for others to pass judgment on him.

Did your retirement disappear with the downturn in the stock market?
Are you struggling to hold your marriage together after losing a child?
Will you meet the staff at a cancer treatment ward this year?
Does it feel like you are the only one experiencing these trials?

God knows you are facing these obstacles. God knows that these things affect how you manage your money. God knows your spirit is just as involved in your management of your finances as it is in your Bible study or your family.

How do we trust God with our money the way Job did? I Samuel 2:6-8 reads,

 “The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, And He has set the world upon them.”

According to a recent article, “even the poorest 5% of Americans are better off financially than two thirds of the entire world1.”  Knowing that there are literally billions of people surviving on less than $2 per day2 doesn’t make us feel rich when we have difficulty paying our bills, so why would we believe we are justified in passing judgment on those who have more than us?

When we had children, we knew we wanted to provide the best possible education for them. This meant when we prepared to buy our first home, we considered what school they would attend. This influenced which neighborhoods we considered. We believed providing a good education was important. This belief influenced our use of money. How others prioritize their decisions about work, spending, and charity is ultimately an issue between themselves and God. We are called to make these decisions with our spouse under the wisdom and leading of God’s Word.

Notes:

  1. link: http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/04/news/economy/world_richest/index.htm
  2. see Poverty Statistics under Resources http://www.theholeinourgospel.com/resource-links/