WWJD about the wealth gap?
The world’s richest 62 people have as much money as the poorest half of the world’s entire population.
Let that sink in as you take a look at this new Oxfam report into financial inequality (prepared for last week’s World Economic Forum).
Hard to get your head around, right? About 60 individuals have the same collective wealth as more than 1.5 billion people combined.
What will we do?
Clearly, the divide between rich and poor is massive. Closing the gap is a matter of decency, equality and respect. But how are we going to do it?
A friend of the poor and needy was Jesus. Everyone knows that. Many of us also know he often talked about the various issues that erupt when money is involved.
The way he talked about riches and poverty, though, was so much different to how most of us want to talk about it. Yet his guidance and observations continue to be profitable for making meaningful changes to our financial outlook.
One day, Jesus was randomly asked to divide an inheritance between two brothers. In response, Jesus warned to “be on guard against all greed” (Luke 12:13-15). Whoa, Jesus! Where did that come from? Wasn’t some guy in the crowd just looking for a bit of financial planning from you?
Judging by Jesus’ reaction, something was wonky with that guy’s investment in money matters. Same can be said for us.
When we hear about the wealthiest 62 people in the world, it’s easy to think we must be doing all right in the greed department. After all, we don’t have THAT much. Maybe not but, as Jesus goes on to explain, the issue isn’t how much we have. The issue is who it is for and what we’re doing with it.
The inheritance request prompted Jesus to tell a parable about a rich bloke who decided to build bigger barns to store up his crops (Luke 12:13-21). This rich bloke reckoned that when he had invested in such storage, he would then be able to “take it easy; eat, drink and enjoy”. But God had other ideas. Death would soon come to this man who stored up “treasures for himself”. So, he wouldn’t get to kick back with his wealth, after all. And he sure can’t take it with him.
In the 2000 years since Jesus first told that parable, his point remains as groundbreaking and intimidating as it would have back then.
Rather than imitating the rich bloke who wastes his time investing only in himself, Jesus encourages everyone to invest in the things of God (Luke 21-34). Such things involve pursuing a priceless relationship with God, as well as trusting in what He lovingly and abundantly provides.
Jesus said that what that will mean, on the financial front, is being free to “sell your possessions and give to the poor”. Whoa. Really? Yeah, because when we realise that we can rely upon God to care for us, we are free to help care for others. Generosity towards others who have less than us is a clear demonstration of being “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).
Rich toward God
When we think about the divide, in monetary terms, between the world’s richest and the world’s poorest, do we first consider Jesus’ words?
Do we think about whether we are being rich toward God and how that impacts those around us?
Such an outlook shapes the way we view, use and share money. If more of us were serious about letting Jesus govern our wallets, an enormous effect upon our world’s wealth inequality would be felt.
But there’s so much more to being “rich toward God” than financial advice. This is a lifestyle choice that covers all aspects of who we are and what we do — and also goes beyond this life. It’s the one investment with eternal returns (Luke 12:31-34).