It’s on Bezos’ calendar every year, Cyber Monday, and I’m putting Jeff Bezos on my prayer list.
Tradition used to be the domain of religious practice; in the 21st Century, the number of people self-identifying as “religious” is dropping, but the number of people baptized into Consumerism – at birth, it seems – shows no signs of decline. Two of Consumerism’s holy days have bracketed the weekend: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
The worshipers on Friday flocked to Amazon to pay their respects – and, to leave an offering. Their $5 billion spike in Amazon revenues raised Amazon stock by almost $30/share; in the process, Bezos’ personal net worth exceeded $100 billion (that’s $100,000,000,000). Today’s Cyber Monday – dedicated to online shopping “deals” – will favor Amazon and lock his gains in place. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are now in Jeff’s rearview mirror…
Bezos is on top the Forbes list, but he’s missing from the Gates & Buffett list: he has opted-out of their Giving Pledge: “a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back.” (www.givingpledge.org)
There was a really rich guy who lived 3000 years ago: “King Solomon was richer and wiser than any other king in the world. They all consulted him, to hear the wisdom that God had given him.” (2 Chronicles 9:22-23). There was no Forbes list yet, but – had there been – he would have topped it.
Solomon was wise; he knew that, even as the world’s richest man, he still needed something that money couldn’t buy. It drove him to pray: “Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:7-9).
Even wealth beyond measure cannot buy two things that are critical for life: truth – without smoke and mirrors – and a grip on reality. Rich guys need prayer…
“Give me only my daily bread.” The wealth portion that God allocates to every person varies based on capacity: “He gave to each one according to his ability: to one he gave five thousand gold coins, to another he gave two thousand, and to another he gave one thousand.” (Matthew 25:15). Then, he steps back to watch what they do with what they’ve been given.
Solomon knew that there were ditches on both sides of the wealth highway. On one side, the poverty ditch is where one crashes when they believe that they’ve been shortchanged in life, and plan to get justice through exploitation. Take what belongs to someone else, and call it “even.” That criminal cohort includes Bernie Sanders… and people who don’t tithe: “I ask you, is it right for a person to cheat God? Of course not, yet you are cheating me. ‘How?’ you ask. In the matter of tithes and offerings…” (Malachi 3:8). Shortchanging God is a Kingdom felony.
The ditch on the other side of the wealth highway is where high-functioning atheists end up. Affluence and faith can be like oil and water, separating over the question of how one became rich: “I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’” The “self-made man” is in the ditch.
How do we stay on the highway, making progress toward our eternal destination? Avoiding the lies and staying in the lane are prayer requests, for sure. As we move into year-end calendar territory, here’s a cultural certainty: in December, you’ll write more checks than you deposit. Consumers and Christians both open their wallets for five weeks, and money takes wings…
Consumer spending makes Bezos rich the next day; Christian giving makes Christians rich on That Day: “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.” (Matthew 25:19).
My prayer, for me: “Protect me from lies… and keep me out of the ditches…” How ‘bout you?