The Plinky Question for this week is:  “What Does Wealth Mean to You?”

That’s an easy question, isn’t it?  I mean, isn’t the answer obvious? Wealth is money, jewelry, fancy cars, exotic holiday locations, power, lots of material objects, land & property, and on and on goes the list.  But if that is the answer, then only a very tiny fraction of people in the world would be considered “wealthy people”.

And yet, there is a stunning and sad fact of life that goes along with the thought just expressed above.  If you ask this question “What is wealth?” to the average person, you will find them stating what I just wrote above.  And then if you ask a related question, “Do you think wealthy people are generally happy?” most people would very quickly answer “No!  I doubt that.”  And why is that do you think?

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Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Rich people get bored.  How many days can you just sit on a beach and drink champagne?
  2. Rich people have to be suspicious of everyone.  Every hand that reaches out to shake their hand will often ask for some kind of hand out or suggest ways that they can help spend that money.
  3. Rich people live in fear.  They become targets for kidnappers and potential blackmail people.
  4. Rich people can buy but not hold friendships.  Once the money is gone, supposed friends seem to disappear.
  5. Rich people cannot escape the inevitable no matter how hard they try.  How many plastic surgeries will they endure to keep looking young, and their money does them no good when they die?

Now if even just half of what I suggest here is true, then there is certainly no way that I ever want to be a really wealthy man.  I mean really, if riches ultimately cannot provide a person with joy and true long-lasting friendships, then why pursue those riches.  (Ah ha, I’ve just revealed a part of what true wealth is: it is having true meaningful relationships with others, and possessing an inner spirit of joy.)

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Just recently, I worked through a Southeast Asia translation on the book of Matthew.  Consider from the English back translation how they translated the words in Mt. 6:19-21:

“Don’t gather treasure for yourself in this world, where termites and rust will destroy that treasure of yours, and a thief can break in and steal it.  Instead, gather your treasure in heaven, where termites and rust cannot destroy it, and a thief cannot break in and steal it.  For where your treasure is, that is where your heart is also.

Notice here the two dangers we face if we build up our “treasures” here on earth?  We face the possibility that either termites or rust will destroy whatever we own.  Now that probably sounds pretty odd to you, doesn’t it?  When was the last time that we had to fight off termites or deal with rust in our comfortable North American homes?

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Consider this from the perspective of someone who lives in a remote village in some developing country though.  And it is more than Southeast Asia that I am thinking of.  It is the Pacific Island countries, the tropical jungle areas of South America, the dusty sun-baked villages of Africa, and many more places in the world.  There is still a majority of the world living in poor to poverty-stricken areas.

For these kinds of people, their vast wealth in life can be listed on a short piece of paper: 2 sets of clothes (maybe), a wooden, mud or bamboo hut, a couple of old dented pots, a machete, and an ax if they are real fortunate, etc.  And so for them, the danger of termites eating through their walls and floors, and rust damaging their few tools and cooking items is certainly a real threat to their livelihood, and perhaps their very survival.

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But Jesus’ words are meant for even these poor people to hear.  We must not put our trust and our hopes in even these few meager items, for life is more than just surviving from day to day.  And life is most certainly more than all the trinkets, gadgets and possessions we have in the West.  No, real life begins and ends in our relationship with God.

You see, it is really all about perspective and values.  If we view life totally from a “Me” perspective, and if we place a high value on the things of this world, then everyone from the billionaire to the shanty town dweller will be yearning for more than what they presently have. So a very “wealthy” person or a destitute person have it all wrong when it comes to what is of true worth in this life.

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In Matthew 13, Jesus teaches many parables, and in verses 44 – 46, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a great treasure found buried in a field and to  a fabulous costly pearl found at a market.  Jesus states in these parables that finding the joy or having God rule over one’s life (i.e. the meaning of “Kingdom of Heaven”) is worth so much that a person would be willing to sell all earthly possessions to be able to own that field, to buy that pearl, to become a citizen with God’s Kingdom.

So what is my perspective on wealth?  I know that I am a child of the King, and an heir to all the promises of God and all the blessings and riches of Heaven.  I have the love of God my Father, and the salvation bought for me by Jesus, and the joy and presence of the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of other believers.  What more could I ever want.  Truly, I am a wealthy man.

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