Is it wrong to be rich?
I’m writing this in a sleeping bag because I don’t want to turn the heating on, but nine out of ten people in the world see me as rich
It’s been in the news recently that the wealthiest 85 people in the world have as much wealth as the poorest half of the world combined.
Pause. Take a second.
That statistic is crazy, think about it.
85 people own as much as over 3.5 billion people. I can’t comprehend 3.5 billion people. Let alone all their work and effort, that the economy values as being equal to 85 other people.
But it has got me wondering, is it wrong to be rich?
What about me? As an intern, my effective salary would put me in the top ten per cent of earners in the world and I’m just getting by. In fact I’m writing this in a sleeping bag because I don’t want to turn the heating on. But like it or not nine out of ten people in the world see me as rich.
But is it wrong to be rich?
The Bible certainly warns of how difficult it is for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God
The Bible certainly warns of the dangers of wealth, and how difficult it is for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:17-27). Love of money is also a root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim 6:10). But the tenner sat in my wallet; the figures in my bank account, in and of themselves are not wrong.
Instead, I think we can learn a lot from one of the richest men in the world when it comes to this particular issue. Warren Buffett lives very humbly for a multi-billionaire. The only car he owns is one he bought because it was cheaper as it was hail damaged. He isn’t your usual multi-billionaire.
He has understood something. From a young age, Warren realised he could make a lot of money. He saw he had a real talent for it. In school he was making more money than his teachers. He told his siblings he was going to be a millionaire by 30. No-one doubted him. Warren had a real talent for making money. The thousands turned into millions, which turned into billions; so of all people he has the right to claim to be a self-made billionaire.
But he doesn’t.
Warren recognises something far too many people don’t. He is not a one man-money-making-machine. He is a product of his society. If he was born in Bangladesh or Peru, he wouldn’t have been able to make the money he does today. If he was born in any generation before his, he wouldn’t have been able to make the money he does today. He recognises the importance of others, of society. How fortunate he is. Or as he likes to put it: ‘Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.’
His talented investment skills are profitable today because many people before him planted the trees, and created the society he lives in. So he is making the most of his talent – earning billions in investments. He has done it his whole life but instead of lazing in the shade of wealth, he is going to plant many more trees. He is going to give it all away. Much like a growing number of billionaires who have pledged to give away at least half their wealth. So that he continues this cycle. So that others with talents don’t miss out.
The question for us today is not – is it wrong to be rich? Instead it is – what talents do I have? And how am I using them? That is what we will be called to account for (Matt 25:14-30). Burying them in the dirt or keeping them to yourself is wrong. But if you have the talent to make millions, make them. If you have the talent to be a journalist, write great articles that speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. But make sure you recognise that it wasn’t just down to you. Instead be a good and faithful servant by investing your talents for the benefits of others. Use your talents to plant trees so that others too may flourish.
Realise the talents you have. Grow. Develop. Flourish them into something beautiful. But recognise they were always a gift, a gift from God. Grown in the soil of those who have gone before us. Spend your gifts making the soil rich for others.