Rich Man, Poor Man~ The Rev. Deacon Dollie Wilkinson, OPI
When I was younger, living in a small town in West Virginia, we were considered poor. Like most of my friends’ parents, even though my Mom and Dad worked full time, we lived paycheck to paycheck. This meant that usually the money ran out before the end of the month. Though our bills were usually paid, there were some months that maybe the electric bill wasn’t paid, or we would get a cut off notice for the water. I remember many months where we would make an impromptu visit to the Salvation Army pantry, to pick up canned goods, dried beans, and if we were lucky, a canned ham. Being a child, and because most of my closest friends’ parents, or grandparents, also did this, I never thought much of it. It was only when I got older, going to junior high school, then high school, that I realized not everyone lived this way. I just assumed everyone wore hand-me-downs, and ate left-overs more than one day a week.
Now as an adult, I realize how poor we were. Though we didn’t have much money, we had plenty of things money couldn’t buy – family, love, contentment, joy, fun, friendship. But of course being a child, I did envy those children who would come back from Christmas break, bragging about the presents they got or where they spent their holiday vacation. When my daughters were growing up, I tried to give them all the material things I lacked as a child – newest, most popular toy, latest fashion in clothes, and any food stuff or snacks they wanted. While also providing them with a loving and safe home, I wished to make sure they never felt deprived, that they never went hungry, that they never wanted for anything (within reason and budget, of course). Now that they are adults, with good paying jobs, they can provide for themselves.
But as adults, we sometimes are like children – so we still want the newest, most popular toy, latest fashion in clothes, and any food stuff or snacks we crave. There isn’t anything wrong with this, as long as we understand that there must be a limit to our material possessions. That just like a child who understands limits, what he or she can or cannot do, or can or cannot have. As adults, especially as children of God, we must recognize that material wealth does have its limits. And that the value that we put on material possessions will hinder us from leading a life of goodness and faith. This is what we are cautioned about in 1 Timothy 6:6-19:
“Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time–he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”
In Timothy, we are not told to always go around and be poor. Rather we are cautioned that if we have wealth, if we have a comfortable life with plenty of food on the table, clothed in the latest fashion, or surrounded by nice things, to not be boastful, To share with others as we can, to also “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness”. While having nice things is not a sin, worshiping these things above God is. So we must use these material blessings from our heavenly Father to help others, to do good works. How do we do that? Volunteer your time in a soup kitchen, or animal shelter. Donate money to help orphanages overseas, or a local church charity. Offer to cut your neighbors grass, or sit with an elderly friend. Though you may not have wealth, you can still be rich. For as long as you do good works, it is in this richness that you “ may take hold of the life that really is life.”
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