Is It Wrong to Be Rich?

How should we view our—and other's—spending habits?

I was recently flipping through the radio stations on a drive home when a bit of DJ banter caught my attention. They were going on about the usual Hollywood gossip that normally doesn't interest me at all, but what stayed my finger above the seek button was a mention of the projected income for Britain from the “Royal Baby” of Kate Middleton and Prince William.

The number they spoke seemed astronomical to me. One DJ threw out the number $121 million, while the other went on to list some of the trinkets and experiences that were being sold to interested parties. Being a moderately skeptical person, I did a little research and found that this number is one of the more conservative estimates, with some experts quoting figures as high as $400 million.

My initial reaction was that of disgust at the fact that out there were millions of people spending money on such frivolities that surround the child of someone they will never meet in person let alone know.

It is all too easy to see the wealthy people in the world and call them out for not sharing their riches without knowing the truth of their finances.


I began to crunch numbers about how much good this money could do if applied properly, as I often do when I hear about outrageous uses of large sums of money (if you want to know, the low estimate, $121 million, could feed over 1.5 million children for a year according to Feed My Starving Children’s donation calculation page).

I was several equations in when I had to stop myself. I was unjustly judging these nameless, faceless people whom I know nothing about. I was ashamed at their frivolity when I had no knowledge of their true natures or motives. I heard that number and, in a way, told myself I was better than them because of what they were spending their money on.  

A lot of Christians do something similar whenever we see someone extremely wealthy. Even before hearing or seeing their actions, our minds wants to wander to the ways in which we would use the money more wisely.

It is all too easy to see the wealthy people in the world and call them out for not sharing their riches without knowing the truth of their finances. We often play the "what if" game in and come out looking like pretty great people compared to whoever they are interviewing on MTV Cribs that day.

This is a trap many Christian fall into on a regular basis. Each one of us spends plenty of money on non-necessities every single day. A poll is not needed to know that the majority of American Christians, as well as Christians from around the world, partake in things regularly that are in no way needed for survival. We go out to restaurants that would be exceedingly lavish in many countries without a second thought. We throw millions of dollars each year into products that do not feed, clothe or shelter us but rather provide us some extra level of nonessential comfort. Can any of us righteously cast the first stone in this situation? 


Anyone would agree that it is important to help the needy. We may disagree on how, but there is always overwhelming support for charity organizations. However, pointing fingers and calling out an individual’s lack of giving is not the kind of help anyone needs. It would be immensely hard for any of us to give up on our luxuries, so rare is it that when someone does deny themselves of even the most basic frivolities in life they make it to the cover of a magazine or find themselves doing the talk show circuit.

It would be wonderful if we could all chip in and help every homeless person on the street, but it isn’t always in the budget. Everyone paints a perfect portrait of themselves mentally, but few will ever live up to such high standards as the imagination is capable of placing.

For everyone who has ever looked upon a wealthy person in disdain, I would urge they ask themselves how differently they would behave if their bank account suddenly acquired a few extra zeros.

It’s easy to give away something that isn't ours, but it becomes that much more difficult to actually put our money where our mouths are once it’s in our hands.


The answer to this question frightens me, as I’m sure it would frighten most. Can anyone say for sure that their generous desires would remain, that their giving spirit would not be hindered by a sudden influx of ability to spend lavishly upon themselves?

It’s easy to give away something that isn't ours, but it becomes that much more difficult to actually put our money where our mouths are once it’s in our hands.

Those faceless people I judged earlier may already have donated their money and time to charity; why not let them find some joy in a goofy trinket about some famous baby? One of these nameless people may have already given twice the percentage of tithe that many drop into the plate, and it is up to him or her to decide what to do with any excess. There are no unbreakable rules written about this.

Sure, in a perfect world, the money spent on nonessentials would go to help those who don't have enough for necessities. But the world we live in is far from perfect, and God gave us the ability to choose what we do in our lives. Who are we to judge others based on what they do with what they have been given? We are only responsible for what we do with what we have been given.

God won’t look at anyone on judgment day and tally up percentages of giving or volunteer work. Nor will He grant anyone any greater reward for passing judgment on those around them. I will face Him alone, as will everyone, and when the time comes I would certainly be deemed unworthy if it weren’t for the One who made sure that my selfishness and unrighteous judgment will not be held against me. 

2 Comments

Chris Francis

4

Chris Francis commented…

I think the last commandment (Exodus 20:17) speaks directly and indirectly to this issue.It speaks of not desiring another persons stuff.I would argue at it's core it is truly saying focus on your blessings and how you are managing it because there are great traps and snares when we begin to look at the stuff of others, including judging how they manage it.

Similarly this applies to the opposite end of the spectrum as well.I am often tempted to look at those poorer than I and wonder how they have squandered the resources in their lives.The commandment graciously protects us from both sides.

Femmeke

2

Femmeke commented…

I like the what you wrote, but please choose a title that cóvers the subject of the article next time. I was really curious, but you answered a different question: "should someone judge rich people?". I hope you will write about "is it wrong to be rich?" some other time :)

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