My good friend Stephen and I have had an ongoing conversation for the last several months about (among other things) money. Okay, it's really more about cycle of salvation and whether the saved can become less-so. But we tend to wander and weave whenever we repartee.
The background is that Stephen made a bit of coin as a businessman, and is continuing to improve his financial situation through savy deals and wise management. As I can attest, once you've acquired some monetary success, you tend to become a bit of a target. The ramifications of these new relationships will truly change your world view.
In this particular dialogue, the parable of the rich young ruler was naturally brought up. We discussed how the issue with this particular fellow wasn't the rich part or the young part or the ruler part. It was that he was holding something back in his spiritual life. That the rich part (and maybe the ruler part?) were impacting his ability to give of himself completely. If you want your whole soul saved, you need to give up your whole old soul first. [Editors note: don't shoot me for the theological inconsistencies with that last phrase, I just liked how it sounded. Stay focused now.]
As we both so politically agreed that there is no problem with having money or nice things, I found it necessary to share my true perspective on the problem. One that isn't very politic, bordering on heretical. You see, I don't believe it is possible to follow God, live by faith, and have wealth. Yes, I you heard me. I said it. You can't be rich and in right relationship with God. That is honestly what I believe to be the only message to be derived from Scripture. Of course, that's not all I believe.
Before you fly off the handle, let me lay out the whole foundation for you. You see, just because a person cannot be wealthy and live by faith, doesn't mean they can't control wealth. This subtle distinction is what makes world-changing by believers a practical reality. We can have big companies that make a profit. We can have huge charities that change the world. We can have lobbies and pay for politics. We can throw parties, create television programming, build publishing houses and construct huge housing developments. But individually, our responsibility in living by faith is to never be wealthy. Remember, this is just what I believe.
So how does this play out in practice? Stephen had the answer. He called it the Walking Non-Profit. Make as much money as you want, invest in the company as much as you need. Be TRULY successful. But in your own life, make sure the balance sheet is run like a non-profit. Other than what you need, make sure the rest goes back to those who do need it. For example, a faithful CEO should never receive more income than the amount the company spent on benefits for all the other workers combined. That's how the world runs today. Do a little research and you will see that story continually replayed. I posted some stats from Forbes in an earlier post.
As we meandered around this subject it was really refreshing to me to actually be able to share something I truly feel with someone I thought would truly understand. Unfortunately, this is more rare with me than I'd like to admit. I don't like hearing my buddies talking about how little effort is involved with finding dates. It annoys me to watch someone who dances so much better than I do it so effortless while urging me, "It's easy!". People don't want to hear an accomplished person saying things are easy. They don't want to see someone they view as wealthy talking about giving it away. It just comes off as condescending and fake. Nobody believes in altruism anymore. Even the ones who say the do, are so hardened by abuses they've suffered, that their default response is disbelief and cynicism. This is one of many reasons I find that I keep my real opinions to myself and just offer blind encouragement.
Of course, no one wants to hear that God-Followers can't be rich either. We need the dream, the fantasy, the false-hope. We need to believe that someday we might have fortune or fame. Our adult ADHD means we can't simply be satisified in a life of service. No one aspires to the title of Servant anymore. Alas.