Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Occupy Your Street

Occupy Wall Street!
There's been a lot of talk lately about how the wealthy should act, what they should do with their wealth and who is entitled to it. The problem is everyone points at the people wealthier than themselves. Have you considered the fact that you might be wealthy?  There's a story told about Bill Gates (I can't verify it's validity, but the point it makes stands) visiting with a poor widow in India while doing work for his charity. When he left a reporter ask the woman if she knew she had been speaking to the richest man in the world. She looked at the reporter unimpressed and said "Everyone who visits us from the West is rich." To this woman there was no practical difference between the person who lives in a 1,200 square foot 3 bedroom house making $35k a year and the person worth billions with several mansions. They both drink clean water from a bottle or tap anytime they want, they sleep on a mattress in their own bedroom, when it's hot they turn on the a/c, when it's cold they turn on the heater. When they're hungry they go to the refrigerator, pantry, restaurant or grocery store, they drive a car or rely on safe public transportation when they need to go somewhere. Because to her, clean water, food and a roof over her head are luxury items, everyone who has them is living in luxury;  the people who have those things are "rich people". The funny thing is most of us don't feel rich. This is because we only feel rich when there is a margin between what we earn and what we spend. However we live in consumeristic culture. We were taught from an early age that there are always bigger, brighter, newer, safer, faster, cleaner and better things that we need. The message comes from every TV, radio, magazine, billboard, retail store and corner of the internet; "You haven't arrived yet, you don't yet own the thing that will really make you happy!". So, while many of us intend to be generous, we want to be generous when we have all that we need plus a few luxury items; once we're "rich". It's obvious though that we never become "rich" because rich is a moving target, as soon as you arrive you realize you're not there yet. We spend every dollar we earn and often a lot we haven't yet earned and we never have any margin in our lives. We never feel rich, so we never act rich. We never get around to being the generous person we intend to be. In a culture where so few are "rich", very few are generous. The result is that the truly poor, both here and around the world, are left without the things that should never be considered luxury items: access to clean water, food, basic shelter, basic healthcare and basic education. The problem is not a political or governmental problem it is an "us" problem. We need to recognize our wealth, be grateful for it and live generously. We need to let gratitude and generosity occupy our hearts.

Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. ~1 Timothy 6:17&18