“Remember, you are rich.” This imperative was not a wild, braggadocios claim; it came as a warning. When I first heard these words, I was preparing for a short-term trip to Yugoslavia, then an ex-Eastern Bloc country. What my teacher meant to say was, “You have been blessed with so much; develop a sensitive heart and share your wealth.”
I did not consider myself rich then, and I couldn’t imagine anyone benefiting from the little I could spare. Now that I have traveled in underdeveloped countries such as Ethiopia and others, I can verify that I do have more material assets-even though in my own country, I would fall easily into middle-class economics.
In Addis Abba, Ethiopia, we met some of the poorest Jewish people in the world. Some chased us down the street for a scrap of something to eat, and there were the hundreds of those who couldn’t even raise their heads for the evils of malnutrition. Those images are engraved on my heart, and they are shifting the priorities of my world.
According to a study released at the turn of the cntury by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations, the heaviest global wealth ditribution is consentrated in North America, Europe, and rich Asian Pacific countries.
One of the warnings God gave the Jewish peopel in the Torah was not against having wealth, but the attitude that can arise from affluence. “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD you God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flociks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of slavery” (Deuteronomy 8: 11:15).
Yes, we are a gilt-ridden society but no guilt should be involved. And definitely no pride in ourselves or against God should be involved. God rejects the proud and draws near to the humble. Giving develops sensitivity to God and others. Nehemiah 8:10 gives us one clue about how to share our blessings,”Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
When it comes to finances or kindness or living or any action in life, God is not mocked. Whatever a person sows is what he reaps. Take a trip to a developing country or go just across the tracks in your own town and witness the poverty.
Then rid yourself of some of the gilt.