My pastor finished a really good sermon series yesterday on money. Priorities with your money, getting out of debt, getting spending under control, having an emergency fund, how the way you handle your money is a spiritual issue -- "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" -- and he ended the whole thing yesterday with the idea of investing, money making money. The final step of his process he described, after getting out of debt and all that, was to start to create wealth.
And I cringed at that. The term "wealth" has such pejorative connotations anymore, it was uncomfortable to hear my pastor encouraging us to pursue it. I agreed with everything he was saying, but I wanted to hear him explain WHY we want to pursue wealth.
In America today, we immediately associate the term "wealth" with comfort, luxury, and all to often, selfishness. Ease. Security. Separateness. Yes, that's it -- separateness. The wealthy are separated from the rest of us, physically and psychologically. They are other. They are not one of us. They don't live like us, they don't suffer like us, and they therefore can't relate to us and don't care about us.
That's the connotation. But the denotation (having flashbacks to high school English class?) is much less emotionally-laden. Wealth is "anything that has utility and is capable of being appropriated and exchanged", and especially, a great quantity of such things -- an abundance, a profusion, a plentiful amount. To be wealthy means your immediate needs are met, your future needs are likely going to be covered, and you have an excess of resources.
The question is what to do with that excess, and thus my concern with why we should pursue such excess. Isn't that selfish and greedy to want more than we need? I contend, no -- with two caveats.
First -- if your excess is not depriving another of what will meet their needs. This is the great misunderstanding in our country today: wealth is not a pie to be divided up among everyone, where your getting more inherently requires someone else to do with less. Wealth is constantly created. It really is possible for everyone in a country to get more wealthy at the same time -- witness the difference between the poor in America and the poor in Uganda. It is also possible for someone to get wealthy by cheating others and keeping them down, but the mere presence of great wealth in the hands of one man does not indicate that someone else is not getting "their fair share". If you acquired your excess fairly and justly, it is not a sign of greed. It is a sign of blessing.
Second -- if that excess is used for "Kingdom Work", as my pastor put it. We are blessed to be a blessing, the saying goes. We are blessed because we have been deemed worthy of great responsibility. When God blesses us with excess resources, it is not so that we can make ourselves comfortable or live luxurious lives. Not that there's anything wrong with comfort or luxury per se, but that's not God's purpose for wealth. We should pursue wealth because of the good work that can be done with it. When we rightly come to view all the stuff as God's stuff, we also rightly come to view ourselves as mere managers and stewards of the stuff, and the responsibility to be good stewards comes to the forefront.
We pursue wealth just like we pursue skill and knowledge and wisdom -- because they are tools which God has given us to accomplish his purposes on earth.
I realize this was beyond the scope of Pastor Jeff's series, but this is the logical next step to his teaching. And it was where I needed to go. The godly wealthy man is not separate -- he is intimately connected with the world around him, because he is managing that store of excess resources that has been put in his hands for the sake of God's Kingdom.