Earn all you can

August 21st, 2015

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus contends that the poor will always be with us (Mark 14:7). This implies that the rich will also be with us. This troubles many.

Income inequality exists throughout the world, on every continent, in every country, and in every town. It is a consequence of virtually every economic system established throughout history. Inequality encourages comparisons between the rich and the poor. Compassion is extended to the poor — a response well grounded upon Christian doctrine. For the rich, responses are not always gracious.

Scripture is sometimes used to disparage the rich:

Pay attention, you wealthy people! Weep and moan over the miseries coming upon you. (Jas 5:1 CEB)

The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. (1 Tim 6:10 CEB)

It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom. (Mark 10:25 CEB)

Taken out of context, these are convincing scriptures. When wealth is pursued, one might contend that success is sinful. How is wealth attained? Under the aegis of the American dream, those who succeed do so through hard work, smart choices, and disciplined spending. Americans tend to admire those who start with nothing and slowly climb up the ladder to success.

Economic studies prove that education and training improve one’s income. There are exceptions but not many. Life skills are also important for financial success and are most often taught within the family. Churches are places where honesty and integrity are taught and experienced.

Perhaps we have disgusting images of the rich, flaunting their riches to prove their stations in society. Some of us respond with anger and frustration.

This conduct causes many not to know that some wealthy individuals police these tendencies and blend into the assemblies of common folk. They are anonymous in their charities, reside in humble dwellings, and sit with us in church. Their friends are both rich and poor. They are endearing but not identifiable as among the rich. Yet their numbers are surprisingly large. In spite of their presence, the disdain for the wealthy grows with every report, movie, novel, and play carrying similar themes.

A growing gap is often reported in the secular press. These reports find their way into our churches. Many believe that any widening of the gap somehow disadvantages the poor. However, in my forthcoming book, Earn All You Can: Getting Rich for Good, I examine scriptures about wealth and encounter economists who conclude that a widening gap is a positive reflection of economic growth. Economic growth is the single most effective tool by which poverty is eliminated.

This article is an excerpt from his forthcoming book Earn All You Can: Getting Rich for Good, which will be available from Abingdon Press in February 2016.

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