“Flashy displays of wealth do not impress me,” wrote Lauren Lyons Cole in a recent article for Business Insider
Cole is a New York City financial planner who has worked with everyone from Wall Street professionals to lawyers to social workers. She said, “I get to see behind the curtain of people’s finances all the time,”
During her ten-year career Cole says, “I’ve realized almost everyone gets the same thing wrong about money:”
“Stuff doesn’t equal wealth.”
In the context of the article Lauren Cole is talking about financial prudence, spending less than you make, and learning how to save your money. She’s discussing how financial success is determined by how much you’ve saved, not how much stuff you’ve acquired.
Her statement reminds me of Jesus’ conversation with a man who was distraught following his father’s death. But his displeasure was directed toward his brother who wouldn’t divide the inheritance. So, he petitioned Jesus for help.
“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (LK 12:15)
The nature of mankind hasn’t changed in 2,000 years. The selfish acquisition of material possessions has long consumed the human heart. It was a problem in Jesus’ day. It’s still a challenge in the 21st century.
In a culture that touts “greed is good” conspicuous consumption is admired and desired in many circles. Cole spoke of clients who were school teachers who had bigger retirement accounts that doctors who earned five times their income. Driving luxury cars, filling your closets with designer clothes and spending every last penny on creature comforts does not truly produce real wealth. Or satisfaction and fulfillment in life.
The early 20th-century Humorist and social commentator Will Rogers, once quipped, “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.”
The heart of the issue is the heart. It’s covetousness. An inordinate desire for material things. It is often fueled by other sins like by envy and jealousy. It’s easily displayed in attitudes of arrogance and pride. And it sadly results in misguided values, misplaced priorities, and missed opportunities.
When we focus only on the things of this world, we can never see beyond this world to heavenly treasures reserved for the faithful. Greed hardens our heart, blinds our eyes, and distorts the purpose of life.
Jesus is not teaching that success is sinful. Nor is he saying that the accumulation of wealth is wrong. Abraham was “very rich,” but was called “the friend of God.” Job possessed great wealth, yet was identified as “blameless,” “upright,” and one who “feared God and shunned evil.”
Jesus is teaching that our focus on life should not be about stuff. Our true abundance is found in our spiritual relationship with God. Being “rich toward God” issues itself in generosity. Goodness. And godliness. It is a caring and sharing spirit toward the needs of others. It sees success as a sacred trust to make a difference. To serve. To share. And to contribute to the betterment of the world.
Remember money is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. Or as financial coach Bradley Vinson put it: “Money is a tool. Used properly, it makes something beautiful. Used wrongly, it makes a mess.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman