January 9, 2017
Is this the year to get rich… or, to live richly?
The markets have caught some tailwind as ’16 ended and ’17 began; anticipation seems to be running high. If this is a season for economic achievement, what will it mean, to you?
You might not have your plans clarified the way Tevye has. It’s been 50 years since Fiddler on the Roof was the hottest thing on Broadway, but the philosophy captured in Tevye’s theme song – “If I Were a Rich Man” – is as fresh today as it was then, depicting a transitioning Jewish family in a rural Russian village, in 1905. What would being rich do for Tevye?
For two verses, he addressed the fun-money opportunities: material comforts and self-serving excesses are easily listed. His third verse focuses on making life better for wife Golde. His ultimate desire – if only he were rich – emerges in his final verse: he’d be able to work less and spend more time at the synagogue, praying and reading the Torah (our Old Testament). He finishes that last verse with a rhetorical question that still echoes: would it really spoil God’s vast, eternal plan if he were wealthy?
So, life’s agenda – for Tevye, or for most of our 21st Century American peers – remains pretty clear. Step #1: Get rich. And, Step #2: Now that you’re rich, assuage your appetites, provide for your family… and, then, get close to God.
Here’s God’s agenda for Rich Christians: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Wow; it’s a good thing we’re not “rich,” isn’t it?
“Rich in this present world” is the target group: who is that? Click globalrichlist.com, and put your country and annual income into their home page. Here’s what you’ll discover: if you make at least US$32,500/year, you’re in the top 1%. Welcome to Rich! Now that you know who you are, what agenda are you pursuing as you launch your life into 2017?
Here are God’s simple – but, powerful – commands (he doesn’t call it optional advice; if you’re a follower of Jesus, these are marching orders):
1. Avoid the attitudes that infect affluence. Arrogance and misplaced trust will neutralize your potential to live the life God has assigned to you. Don’t be like most rich people; be better: stay humble, and trust God over ‘Mammon’ (the identity your financial statement tries to steal from the Almighty).
2. Adopt the practices that allow you to live richly. He names four: first, Do Good. Don’t get involved in career/marketplace/investment practices that play to the dark side. Whatever business you’re in, God’s in… and he doesn’t want to partner in tawdry pursuits. Then, it’s Good Deeds. This tag always attaches to time and talent investments that produce eternal impact. We refer to that as “Calling,” and it employs you in efforts that produce a future payday, for which you have faith. Third: Be Generous. Get clear here: generosity isn’t about offering the minimums (for believers, that’s the tithe); it’s about the above-and-beyond that transfers assets from earth to heaven. And, last: Share. Being rich always means we have more capacity than we are currently using. An extra seat at the dinner table; an extra car in the garage; an extra room upstairs; an extra $100 in the wallet: someone around us is short; how can our extra become their enough, without removing our continuing excess?
3. Look forward to a payday, someday… Treasure in the coming age, and life that is really living today. That’s what it means to live richly.
Tevye never got there; you’re already there. Will you live 2017 richly, as God has prescribed?