I was a junior in high school when I had my first real job – sacking groceries for United Supermarket across the street from where I grew up. I had a boss, kept certain hours and actually had to punch a time clock. Like I said, it was a real job.
It was also my first taste of a modicum of financial freedom. Now understand, I never lacked growing up. My loving parents took care of more than just my needs throughout my childhood and adolescent years, but I don’t ever really remember having an allowance for discretionary purchases as I got older. That all changed when I started getting my paycheck every two weeks from the good folks at United. Now, for the first time I actually felt rich.
I could buy any soft drink I wanted at Mr. Burger (my hometown’s version of Sonic); Cherry Lime Aid, Ocean Water, Suicide…you name it, I could buy it and grab one for all my friends. I was rich.
I opened up a banking account at First National Bank and couldn’t believe it. Not only did I have money in the bank but now I carried around a checkbook with my name on the checks! Things were different. I was rich.
I even had my two younger brothers coming to me for money. I acted like The Godfather: Jodey, you need some cash for the movies eh? So you need some money for the Family Fun Park, Kally? Sure, but you must first kiss the ring…do that and know I’m charging you 40% interest. Don’t pay and I’ll beat you both to a pulp. I had to do that early on growing up because soon Jodey would discover the joy of lifting weights and Kally would sprout to a mere 6’6″. I was rich…and smart.
The pinnacle of feeling rich came with the purchase of a watch that I had wanted for a long, long time. I can’t remember exactly why I was drawn to it. Maybe I had read one too many GQ magazines. But I had my sights set on a Gucci watch. It had a genuine leather band, gold-rimmed and the classic Gucci red & green face (see image). Needless to say it was NICE, but it was also $250. So I saved up for a month and ran over to Dillard’s at the mall and bought it. Now I really felt rich.
I would walk down the hallways of my high school asking peers, “Do you want to know the time?” so I could display the glory of my wealth to the poor souls who could only manage to supply their meager wrists with those cheap plastic Swatches to accompany their wardrobe of parachute pants, friendship pins and Spuds McKenzie t-shirts. I admit, I very well might have been a little braggadocios, a little arrogant, maybe even a little smug, but I was a lot rich!
Here’s the point: Feeling rich has nothing to do with how much money you have but how well you handle that money. I know people that most would consider dirt poor but are the richest people in the world. They own money (albeit a small amount) but money doesn’t own them. They aren’t running down the wealth track desperately trying to catch the gilded rabbit that in reality is oh-so-close but seems ever-so-far.
I hope and pray that I will always regard myself as feeling rich. Why? Well, there’s no question that on a world scale I’m in the top 1% of wage earners (and if you’re a Westerner you likely are as well). I am rich. And yes, while that feels funny to say it’s nevertheless true, and I can only hope that feeling rich will help encourage me to see and steward my wealth as Jesus wants me to see and steward it. Hopefully it will help me not to gloss over texts like 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (ESV) which reads:
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
Jesus, help me to follow you in my wealth because the truth is…
I am rich.