Getting Rid Of My Wealth Guilt

In my last post I gave a review of my friends new book Junkyard Wisdom. Today let me share with you a portion of the book where Roy addresses Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler in Mark 10. He wrestles with how this conversation relates to his own life as a wealthy man.

‘You’re still missing one thing, though, Roy. Go sell everything you have and give it to the poor. You’ll get your treasure back in heaven. And then come follow me.’ 

That is an answer. Even a seemingly easy one. My life is a wrestling match, so it would be simpler to give it all away.  But simple isn’t a synonym for best or wisest.

money5555Say I wake up tomorrow morning and decide to give it all away. Say I can somehow give all of my money to organizations and individuals who are making a tangible difference in the world, and that there are no unintended negative consequences or harm. That’s impossible, by the way, but for the sake of argument, say I figure it out. I’ve broken the power of wealth in my life the only way that works: by giving it away. As Andy Crouch writes, ‘the only real antidote to the temptations of money is lavish generosity.’ Consider the antidote administered.

I wake up the next morning as a cured man. And I have to admit: it feels good! Much better than the constant wrestling and reevaluating that usually describes my relationship with wealth. I eat a simple breakfast, and then I go to work.

I spend the first hour on the phone with my employees – scratch that, former employees – telling them they’re going to have a new boos or else they’ll need to find a new job. Then I begin calling my tenants, but this takes me a lot longer. I own – sorry, used to own – residential, commercial, and light industrial properties in a 150-mile radius. I notify everyone to expect some changes, some of which will undoubtedly be for the worse, since I consider myself to be a fair boss and a just landlord.

As the day ends, I sneak in a call to my accountant and my financial advisor. They’ll survive without my portfolio, of course, but will the client who replaces me ask them to make ethical decisions like I used to?

You tell me: would those (direct) dozens and (indirect) thousands of people affected be better off? Some might counter that different lives would be better off if I gave everything away. That might be true, though it’s setting a hypothetical good against an actual, known good.

And what about me? Would those relationships in my life be replaced with relationships that are as holy or more holy?

So the wrestling continues.

What do you think? Let me know. If you’re interest is piqued, please go out and buy Junkyard Wisdom


About Andy Lewis

Andy is an author, pastor, and musician who lives in Santa Cruz California. Currently he serves as lead pastor at Faith Community Church in Santa Cruz
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2 Responses to Getting Rid Of My Wealth Guilt

  1. Jack Cain says:

    I believe the answer is in 1 Timothy 6:10. The phrase is “the love of money”, not “money” itself.

    A few years ago, I was in a financial bind, and I asked a former employer for a small loan of a few hundred dollars for 30 days. I volunteered an interest rate double the stock market average so far that year – about 20%. He replied, “I’ve got money out at 100%”, meaning an undeniably usurious rate of 100% interest. His focus was draining the maximum amount of money out of a transaction into his pocket, regardless of the effect on the other person. Doesn’t it seem as if this person, who is a Christian, is relying on themselves rather than God? Doesn’t that sound like the “love of money”?

    In Matthew 25, Jesus relates the story where people were given different amounts of wealth to manage. The worker praised the most was the one given the most. No distinction is made about having “too much”. In Job, the richest people of the land related their knowledge of what God would do to them if they were selfish with their wealth, not if they were simply wealthy. In the end, Job was given double his original wealth and still considered righteous.

    So, if a company owner wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I wonder if I could afford to buy my competitor if I don’t give any raises this year”, is that sinful? I believe so. If the same person wakes up and thinks, “God has blessed me enough to be able to purchase my competitor.”, isn’t that glory to God?

    There are definitely problems with managing resources no matter your personal wealth, or lack thereof. We need to remember that in the end, it is God who decides what resources we possess. Making ethical decisions with wealth is difficult, but gives an opportunity to honor God missed by someone without those resources.

  2. Nathan York says:

    It’s been said that the defining feature of wealth is having options, the ability to choose between many alternatives – where to live, what to drive, how to invest, and such. We’re called to do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31, Col 3:23) and the wealthy shoulder more responsibility in how they manage the plethora of options. They are drawn to ways to enjoy wealth, and even worship it, by seeking identity and self-worth in it. However, we cannot serve both God and money (Matt 6:24).

    If I’m honest with myself I have to admit that the fancy and luxurious things in my life are more about prestige than function. It’s tempting to think all of this is only applicable to the ‘1%’ but in fact almost all of us in the West live in a time of unprecedented prosperity. So rather than approaching this question in terms of wealth and money, we should ask ourselves if we are using what God has given us for His glory or our own. I think each person needs to wrestle with this question and it’s implications.

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