In two previous posts we’ve been considering the story of the Rich Young Man’s encounter with Jesus. We discussed the story itself and then in the last post we looked at two major errors Christians make in thinking about money. Today I want to start with the idea that we need to start with ourselves before we judge others.
One of the problems in our society is that we like to create groups of people and then judge the groups that we don’t see ourselves in. This is true in many aspects of our lives but I think money is a great example and it’s the theme of this thought we are in right now.
You hear all the time about wealth or income inequality, the 1%, the 10% and so on. We talk about people that have an income over a certain amount. Mostly we like to judge whatever group has more than us.
But as a believer this is not really very healthy. It creates self righteousness and envy. Both are bad. Neither are things Jesus calls us to.
It’s not that it’s a bad thing to want to help the poor. FAR FROM IT! Jesus calls us to care about the poor. But we need to operate out of facts and we need to start with ourselves.
Here is an interesting fact**. In 1800 85% of the world population lived on less than $2 dollars a day (adjusted for today’s money). In 2017 only 9% of the world lives on less than $2 dollars a day. That’s called progress. Now granted the COVID situation is going to set a lot of this back. But the bottom line is that overall we are denting world poverty.
I bring this up not to completely diminish income or wealth inequality (by the way those are two completely different things) but to bring some sort of perspective. A lot of what we think about wealth and income in the world is wrong. But I also want us to catch this truth. If you are reading this chances are, from the world’s perspective, you’re the 1%. Or at the very least the 10%. You and I are the Rich Young Man.
What percentage of your income are you giving away?
We could solve world hunger right now if Christians gave away 10%. We don’t need a world government program to do it. We don’t even need all people to do it. We could do it. This isn’t a political post. That’s not the point. The point is unless we are living the principles of generosity perhaps we should be a bit slower to judge the rich young man and the rich of today. The average Christian gives away about 3% of their money. That’s leaving an awful lot of money on the table long before we get to judging anyone else.
There is this false notion that we get in our head that if I made more I’d give a higher percentage away. But this is not the way to build generosity. John Rockefeller said, “I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary which was $1.50 a week.”
Generosity is not dependent on the amount. Remember the story in Mark 12. Jesus is watching people give money into the temple treasury. A widow came and put in two copper coins. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
Again I’ll ask, what are you giving out of?
Every one of us has enough to give. Every one of us can choose generosity.
The question is not so much what you have but what you do with what you have. This is a challenging and frankly uncomfortable thought for all of us, myself included. And I’m in full-time ministry!
Jesus is not going to ask you what the 1% did. He’s going to ask you what you did. Therefore we need to start there. Otherwise we risk being the rich young man and walking away. Even if we don’t consider ourselves rich.
What are you doing with what you have? Are you leveraged with debt? Are you generous? Are you willing to sell all that you have and follow Jesus? Or would you rather sit back and ask someone else to do that?
I’m going to land the plane on the story of the rich young ruler and materialism as an idol in the next post on this study. But for today I’ll close with a couple of thoughts.
I’ve been in full-time ministry work for over 25 years. What I do is 100% funded by individual donations. In that role I’ve had to directly or indirectly ask hundreds of people for money. I’m thankful for the extreme generosity of so many. I have had donors from the 1%. I’ve had donors that make less than I do. I am a donor. What I know is that God honors the heart of all of those people. I and my ministry are entitled to none of it. What I know is that God sees it all. He sees me and He sees you. Before we judge the “rich” we need to see ourselves as the rich young man and ask, would I be willing, if so called, to go and sell all that I have and give it away, to follow Jesus.
** There is an incredible book called Factfulness: Ten Reasons We Are Wrong About The World by Hans Rosling. It talks about how the world has actually gotten better and yet we see it as worse. He’s not a Christian, not a conservative politically and not an American. He is about facts. If we don’t start with the right facts we can’t solve any of the problems we actually face. Its an important book that frankly we probably all ought to read.