What if you found out you are one of the richest persons in the world? Would that change your outlook on what you have and what you do with it?
Maybe you don’t feel that rich, I know I don’t most of the time.
If you are that rich and you don’t feel that rich, perhaps something is wrong with your perspective. I would even go so far to say that if we are off here, we are missing out on something “revolutionary” and “disestablishing”.
Since Thanksgiving break I’ve been watching Frontline video on the credit card crisis while exercising (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/), reading Ecclesiastes, listening and watching Bruxy Cavey’s teachings on our narcissistic culture (http://www.themeetinghouse.ca/) and analyzing our church and my personal finances. I highly recommend all of these activities.
Bruxy’s teachings and the Frontline episode are really quite revealing about our culture and our personal outlook on what I need and desire. In many ways we are trapped, deceived, and bombarded with messages saying “I need this… now” or even worse “I deserve this now”. Given the pervasive credit available, whether credit cards, home equity, student loans, etc…, and the desire of the money lending industry to trap you into always having debt we then go and get what we “need/deserve”. The final result being that we are enslaved to our debt — when we already have more than most people in the world (see below). Solomon would have one word for this sort of life –> meaningless.
I think the real tragedy here is that we miss out on the joy of being able to give. We get life sucked right out of us.
Jesus said “It is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). This of course doesn’t just pertain to financial giving only, but it certainly includes it. In addition there is tremendous blessing and joy that comes from giving of your self to others (Jn 13:17). To give what we have, or rather what we’ve been given, is merely a response towards the love poured out by Jesus for us:
But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Cor. 8:7-9
In fact, if we’ve been given more of something (like we have), it’s so that God can use us to support building His kingdom and to give it to those who are in need:
at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; 2 Cor. 8:14
So, where are we at with respect to the rest of the world? Pretty well off! Here are some statistics:
- From several different measures, the household wealth of Canada and the US makes up about 30% of the total wealth in the world — but our combined population is about 5% of the total population of the world http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distribution_of_wealth
- Based on UN reports from 1999, 3 billion people (nearly half the world’s population) live on less than $2 per day while 1.3 billion get by on less than $1 per day. Seventy percent of those living on less than $1 per day are women. With global population expanding 80 million per year, World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn cautions that, unless we address “the challenge of inclusion,” 30 years hence we will have 5 billion people living on less than $2 per day. http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/wealth_distribution1999.html
- The combined wealth of the 1% richest people in the world is equal to the combined wealth of the poorest 2.5 billion people in the world
- From the study: The World Distribution of Household Wealth. James B. Davies, Susanna Sandstrom, Anthony Shorrocks, and Edward N. Wolff. 5 December 2006. (World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University)
- The richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. The bottom half of the world adult population owned barely 1% of global wealth. (they define wealth in the classic sense of assets minus debts).
- The top 69.8% of Americans are part of the top 10% wealthiest people in the world
- For reference, the median income of US households is about $50K in 2008. If your household income is over about $30K, you are in the top 69.8% of the US and in the top 10% of the world http://www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/p60-236.pdf (though this is a different statistic than wealth, it should get us in the ballpark)
So, where does that leave you? The average charitable giving in the US is about 2.1% of GDP http://www.un.org/partnerships/YStatisticsUSCharitableGiving.htm. That’s actually pretty good, the US being one of the most giving countries based on quantity and percentage http://www.cafonline.org/pdf/International%20%20Giving%20highlights.pdf. But is a couple percent or even ten percent that much when you consider that we are some of the wealthiest people in the world? On top of that we either feel like or we actually are just barely making it because of our debt load.
I think Bruxy is right. One of the most revolutionary things we could do is to forsake the ethic of this kosmos, which is to get what we don’t need, and instead give. Jesus certainly took this approach and when we use what we have to serve others in the context of building His kingdom it becomes very powerful and disestablishing. That is real freedom. What will the rich credit lenders going to do if people decide “I don’t need you”? How far can we reach people with the gospel if we invest in building God’s kingdom rather than a new iPod? How cool it is to be able to help out those who are less fortunate than you! Give the Lord a shot. He only needs a few fish from us to meet the needs of many. When we do that sort of thing we reap true riches.
Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 2 Cor. 9:6