RICH IN DEED
Guard Against Greed
By Steve Scalici
Vice President of Treasure Coast Financial
As a child of the ‘80s, I grew up watching Robin Leach. He brought the lives of celebrities into my home with the hit show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. I loved his English accent, but I loved what he represented even more: outrageous wealth. A 400-foot yacht with a basketball court – now, that’s living!
When I was younger, I was impressed by people who could buy anything they wanted. Now I’m impressed by people who could buy anything they want but choose not to because they realize that ‘stuff” has no lasting value.
In our effort to attain the “lifestyles of the rich and famous,” we often overspend and become the poster children for the “lifestyles of the poor and infamous.” It doesn’t usually happen overnight, but it does happen over time.
There is a phenomenon called “lifestyle creep.” While there is no official definition that I can find for lifestyle creep, I have come up with this definition: Lifestyle creep (v.) – the allocation of additional resources dedicated to selfish wants. The subtle change we make when our wants become our needs.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words to his disciple, Timothy, when he was teaching him how to address a certain group of people.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:17-19, NIV).
Some of you are reading this and just tuned out. You think this doesn’t apply to you because he’s talking to rich people. But how do you define rich? Most of us don’t feel rich because we know many others who have more than us. But have you ever stopped to think how much you really have? According to Global Rich List (www.globalrichlist.com), if you earn $37,000 per year, you are in the top four percent of wage earners in the world. If you earn $50,000 per year, you are in the top one percent of wage earners in the world. Put in that perspective, most of us are doing just fine and would be considered rich. Paul is talking to us!
I find it fascinating that Paul doesn’t say, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be rich.” Obviously, he doesn’t believe there is anything inherently wrong with being rich. However, he does give us instructions on how we should behave as rich people.
He goes on to say we shouldn’t be arrogant or put our hope in our wealth because wealth is so uncertain. Pride is a constant danger with riches. It is very easy to believe that we are more because we have more than another man has. Paul is saying that is simply not true. Wealth is uncertain, but God is not, which is why Paul goes on to tell us to put our hope in God. God knows our tendency to trust in riches instead of in Him. He guards us against this danger because He wants us to trust in that which is most certain – in Him and not in uncertain riches.
In verse 18, Paul teaches us how to behave rich. He instructs us to be “rich in good deeds.” This isn’t average American good. This is rich good. Many think the main reason for giving unto the Lord is because the church needs money. No. The most important reason to give is because you need to be a giver. It is God’s way of guarding you against greed and trust in uncertain riches. God will provide for His work even if you do not give; but what will happen to you? When you commit to give, it’s easier to keep your lifestyle in check.
Jesus said you can’t serve God and money. He could have said, “You can’t serve God and the devil.” But He chose to say money. That tells me that money is the number one competitor for our hearts. One of the best ways to extinguish the fire that money can burn in our hearts is to choose a lifestyle that is consistent with what God would have us live.
Paul finishes by saying that we need to focus on the eternal instead of the temporary. Paul’s idea is to Timothy: Leave the pursuit of money aside and be content with your work as a minister of the gospel. Your hand is not big enough to lay hold of two things. Therefore, since you can only have one, see that it is the vital thing. Lay hold of eternal life.
Maybe you have found yourself getting caught by lifestyle creep and you haven’t been able to share the way you want to. Make choices now that will have an impact not only in this life, but in the coming age.
Steve Scalici is a Certified Financial PlannerTM and Vice President of Treasure Coast Financial. He is co-host of a daily radio show called “God’s Money” that can be heard at www.oneplace.com. You can contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone at 1-800-728-6342. His Web site is www.tcfin.com.
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