9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
Luke 8:14 (NASB95)
14 “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
I had the opportunity as I do from time to time to have a chat with my daughter, Ellie. Typically she is the one in these situations to do the vast majority of the talking, but from time to time, we are able to have more of a two way conversation about deeper things. As her and I were driving in the car, we began to talk about a comment I had made at Denny’s earlier that night. On our table at dinner was a card encouraging us to donate to those in need. I don’t know about you, but I feel as though in recent years we have become increasingly bombarded with charitable requests. You cannot go to a major retailer or grocery store in Southern California without being asked as you pay to donate to some charity. Then you walk out the door to find a small army of people covering every exit to ask for more. While I applaud their efforts on behalf of those who are in need, I find myself becoming irritated and desensitized to the need because of that constant bombardment.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a disparity that lives in our world. There are many places where people are dying of hunger and treatable diseases, and efforts to impact those situations should be applauded. But I also believe that our bar for what we see as need is set quite low. In fact, I think most of us see anyone who has less than what we have as being in need. Because honestly, who doesn’t need more? Typically we would answer that question as anyone who has more than we do. Melissa and I have spent quite a few weeks in Mexico over the years, and what we have found more often than not are a people who are living happy and healthy lives with far less than we could ever imagine living on.
I think it is we that need to rethink need. In God’s attempt to correct our incorrect perceptions about life, he includes this passage in James. You see the reality of the situation is that those who are wealthy are in far more need than the poor. The poor live daily with the reality of their human frailty, and thus it is far easier for them to look to something beyond themselves. James would encourage us to look to their example because it is the poor that should be envied.
Those who have much are more likely to place their dependence on themselves. Wealth has a way of crowding and choking out the truths that God is trying to speak into our lives. This life is to be pitied not envied. All that they (we) have is tarnishing and rusting. Its colors are becoming faded and worn. Spa sessions, workout regiments, and beauty treatments lose their effect within days. Wealth is so deceptive in the way that it works into the foundations of lives. If this isn’t need, I don’t know what is.
Maybe we should be giving to every charity we see in recognition of how empty and fleeting it is. Better yet, may we see the fleeting and deceptive nature of wealth and choose to see our lives in need of so much more.