Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Worshipping at the Altar of Wealth

Do you think of yourself as rich?  Do you want to be rich?  What makes a person rich?  By today’s standards (here in the US), I guess it’s whoever has the most money and things.  Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that says, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins!”?  That pretty much defines the philosophy of a lot of people when it comes to wealth, doesn’t it?  By that definition though, Solomon already won, so we might as well give up!

And besides, based on what we’ve learned by reading Ecclesiastes, we know that Solomon would disagree. In Ecclesiastes 5:15, Solomon says, “We leave this world just as we entered it—with nothing.”  So he’d figured out that having everything wasn’t the answer to anything.

Do we get caught up in the web of trying to get rich?  What does it say about our culture when we watch shows like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” or when we camp outside of an electronics store for a week to be the first to buy the newest game system?  And, are only people who are trying to get rich caught?  Or, is trying to get rich the same as trying to make ends meet?  Where is the line between trying to get by and trying to get rich?  Do you know when you’ve crossed it?

In Counsels on Stewardship, Mrs. White says, 
“God does not condemn prudence and foresight in the use of the things of this life, but the feverish care, the undue anxiety, with respect to worldly things is not in accordance with His will.”  page 159

So, it doesn’t look like the having or not having is the issue, but the wanting.  How many of us want more than we have?  Even just a little bit?  Do you ever find yourself flipping through one of the hundreds of catalogues that comes in your mailbox or the flyers that come in the Sunday paper and wishing you could afford this or that?  Doesn’t everyone?  So is there something wrong with that? 

Well, I think that continually wanting a little bit more really opens us up to get caught by Satan.  He counts on us always wanting more.  That’s one of his easiest hooks for all of us.  Look at how early he hooks our kids!  With commercials during kids’ shows so that before we know it, we’re buying specific cereals with specific “prizes” inside or going to this particular restaurant because of the toys that restaurant puts in its kids’ meals.  Then there are these shoes, those jeans, or that type of shirt. 

Satan works on us all the time too…as soon as we pick out the coolest new cell phone and sign the contract, we see the even cooler phone that does one more thing.  Cars, computers, TV’s…we buy the newest one thinking we’ll be satisfied, but we’re not!  Remember what Paul said in Philippians 4:11-13? 
“…for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have.  I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough.  I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little.  I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.”  (The Good News Bible) 

So, do you think of yourself as rich or poor?  Well, let’s try for a little global perspective.  I found this on several web sites and thought it was really thought provoking and humbling:

Assume that the entire population of Earth was condensed into a village of 100 people.  Of those 100 people, 60 would be Asian, 12 European, 8 Latin American, 14 African and only 5 would be from the United States or Canada.  Eighteen would be what we consider “white”.  Thirty-three would be Christian while 67 would be of some other persuasion.  Five people would control 32% of the “village’s” wealth.  All five of those people would be US citizens.  A whopping 80 would live in substandard housing.  Twenty-four would not have any electricity at all, while out of the 76 people who did have electricity, most would only use it for lighting at night.  Sixty-seven would not be able to read.  Fifty would be malnourished, and one of those 50 would be dying of starvation.  Thirty-three would not have access to safe drinking water.  One would have AIDS, one near death, and one near birth.  Seven people in our pretend village would have access to the Internet.  And, one, just one, would have a college education.  (The Life and Times of Cornelius Root

Now do you feel rich?  We are so blessed to live with such easy wealth, but I know that sometimes I forget who makes it possible for me to live here with all the trappings of civilization.  I get lost in the trappings and miss God’s blessing.  Think of the parable of the rich man in Luke 12:13-21.  He planned to tear down all his old barns and put up newer and bigger ones so he could store all his grain and goods and then just sit back and be happy.  In Christ’s Object Lessons, pp.256-258, Ellen White comments:
“The situation of the poor, the orphan, the widow, the suffering, the afflicted, was brought to this rich man’s attention….This man’s aims were no higher than those of the beasts that perish.  He lived as if there were no God, no heaven, no future life; as if everything he possessed were his own, and he owed nothing to God or man.”
Are we like that rich man sometimes?  I know I am. 

Let’s pray this week that we don’t lose sight of the big picture.  We are where we are because God put us here.  We have what we have because God has given it to us.  He has a plan for us that involves where we are and what He has given us…have we taken the time to find out what His plan is?

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