Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. – 1 Timothy 5:17-18
“What does it feel like to be rich?” I was in Asia with a group teaching English to students who were from a small village, and one of the students asked me this question on our way to dinner. I didn’t know what to say. As I walked in silence, my first thought was that I was only able to go on this trip because of the generous support of family and friends. I then thought of the amount of money I brought, budgeted for food and souvenirs for those back home, which seemed so little to me. I didn’t feel rich.
You have most likely heard the staggering statistics about how rich we are in comparison to the rest of the world. Most of the world lives on less than $10 per day, and if your household income is more than $50,000 you are a part of the 1% of the world who makes as much or more. Honestly, we don’t have to look much further than our closets full of clothes or knowing where our next meal will come from to know that we are rich. The challenge is that we don’t feel rich. The reason we don’t feel rich is because we lack margin. Whether it’s within our income, time, or relationships we feel pushed to the brink. We feel stressed and worried, always looking forward to the day when everything will change; then we’ll be relaxed, content, generous and have time to do the things that are most important to us. Do we have to wait for “someday” or is there a way to live this way now?
It begins by seeing everything as a gift. If everything is a gift, then we can freely share that gift with others. That’s the good you and I can do with our time, talent and treasure. While it might seem counterintuitive, the only way to realize what you have is to give it away. If you feel like you don’t have enough time in the day, go volunteer to read to children at a school. If you don’t have enough money, offer to buy another person’s coffee. If you make this a regular practice, you will find you feel rich. Not in material wealth, but in the lives you have touched. Perhaps that was the question the student was asking me that night. It wasn’t a question of material wealth but of time set aside, investing in the life of another person. That’s the kind of rich I want to be.
Rev. Chad McSwain