James 1:9-11, “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.”
You can become rich but at the expense of everything else. It’s
one of those things in life that requires complete focus, all of your time, and
a tenaciousness that would make a honey badger blush if it could.
I don’t begrudge anyone reaching for their brass ring, going
for gold, pushing the envelope, trying to get the whole pie and not just a
slice, as long as they’re conscious of what they’ll be giving up to achieve it.
It may sound obnoxious, but getting rich isn’t that
difficult. I’m not talking about stupid rich, where you lose count of the billions,
but comfortable enough not to hyperventilate at the sight of a three-digit
restaurant bill. Yes, I know, we all define rich differently, but let’s just
say, for the sake of this discussion, rich is having no debt and a couple of million
in the bank.
Before anyone asks for a loan, I’m not secretly wealthy. I
said getting rich isn’t difficult; there’s just a cost attached to it, and one
I was unwilling to pay. Watching my daughters grow up, spending time with my
wife, and doing the work I was called to do were more important to me than
shiny cars and platinum cards. That’s just me. I chose it, and it’s neither
better nor worse than anyone else's; it was just my choice.
People tend to look down on the rich until they themselves become
rich, then their tune changes. If they had a moral objection to wealth, they
should have rejected it in whatever form it entered their lives. Then, at least,
I’d believe their disapproval was principled and not rooted in jealousy over
what someone else has.
It’s why Socialism looks good on paper but is impossible to
implement. Who wouldn’t want across-the-board equality for everyone? You’d just
be a mean old meanie if you didn’t, wouldn’t you? The problem, however, is
glaringly apparent when you realize that some people are more equal than
others, and those pushing for the imagined equality socialism can give them are
too lazy or incompetent to apply themselves in capitalism. You’re telling me
you can’t hold down a job flipping burgers, but you have the chops to make
Socialism work? Thanks, pudding. I think I’ll stick to what we’ve got,
imperfect as it might be.
Being equally miserable is not the equality they’re trying to
sell, but it’s the equality you’re going to get. There will always be someone who
will want more than their neighbor, whether it’s a bigger house, a fancier car,
or a nicer meat smoker.
Contrary to what some have claimed, James wasn’t looking his nose
down on the rich, nor was he condemning their possession of wealth. He was criticizing
the single-minded pursuit of acquiring possessions at the expense of everything
else that makes life worth living. It’s sad when you come to the end of a
lonely road only to realize that your destination wasn’t all you imagined it to
We see it in the culture around us: the upwardly mobile who
have no time for God, marriage, children, or family, driven by the singular
desire for the next promotion, and by the time they wake up to the reality that
their life is passing them by, it’s too late. You’re in your mid-fifties with a
heart murmur, your closest friend is your housekeeper, and all you have to show
for a life of business lunches, red-eye flights, and power suits is a parking
space closer to the office building that’s bled all your best years away.
We are all given the gift of time; what we do with it is of individual
concern. What do we spend our lives pursuing? What are we willing to sacrifice
everything else for to obtain? If it’s anything of this earth, if it’s anything
material, if it’s anything that can be stolen, or rusts, or depreciates in
value the moment you drive it off the lot, perhaps it’s time to reassess
priorities and determine if they’re a bit wonky and off-kilter.
Is it really worth getting the stuff you’ve always wanted if
you can’t look at yourself in the mirror afterward? Is the pursuit of the material
worth sacrificing the spiritual? I’m not trying to be mean; these are just
honest questions we have to ask ourselves unless we become enamored by trinkets
and baubles that do nothing to satisfy us in the long term.
Is it worth sacrificing your convictions, your ethics, and
your morals for a few extra bucks in the bank? Some people thought it was, but
by the time they figured out it wasn’t, it was already too late. The train had
left the station, the ship had sailed, the deed had been done, and all they had
left to contend with was a steaming pile of regret.
James tells us it shouldn’t matter. Your social standing,
financial well-being, clout, or influence should not define you. Your identity
cannot be anything that possessions, positions, or people can influence. If you
are of Christ, then your identity is in Him, and if your identity is in Him,
then though you might be lowly, glory in your exaltation.
No, I’m not about to quote Hillsong, but you know the lyrics all the same. If a poor man who does not have Christ says he is rich, he is just delusional. If, however, he does have Christ, when he says he is rich, he is rich indeed.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea, Jr.