In recent years University Commencement speeches have been controversial. Either in terms of the speaker invited, as in the recent case of Vice President Pence, or in terms of the content of the speech.
However, there was no controversy Sunday at Morehouse College in Atlanta when Robert F. Smith, the Billionaire founder of the investment firm Vista Equity Partners delivered a shocking announcement.
Smith, the richest African-American in the US, pledged to pay off the student loans of all 396 graduates.
His announcement stunned both faculty and students. Then the graduates erupted in the loudest cheers of the morning.
Smith said he expected the recipients to “pay it forward” and said he hoped that “every class has the same opportunity going forward”.
This incredible act of generosity reminds me of Paul’s commandment to the rich in 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
Few people in the world approach the amount of wealth amassed by Robert F. Smith. And I doubt that very few of us would even consider ourselves rich. However, for those of us living in the United States, our standard of living would be considered rich compared to the rest of the world. And it definitely would, compared to those in Timothy’s congregation in the first century.
Here are 4 commands that will help all of us as we consider our stewardship and how to handle riches.
(1) Be humble.
Among the 7 things that God hates is a “proud look” (Prov. 6:16). The wise man says that “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov.16:18).
If we have obtained wealth, it is by the goodness of God. It should not cause us to be conceited, self-centered, or arrogant. Instead of basking in self-glory we ought to give God glory.
(2) Trust God, not riches.
Our security does not reside in the wealth that we’ve accumulated, but in our relationship with the Lord. Riches are uncertain. Markets are volatile. Investments can decrease in value. Wealth can be stolen. Our material possessions can depreciate.
God’s love, grace and mercy, however, never diminishes. Rich or poor, He loves us. And His promises are safe and secure.
Jesus admonished us to be more concerned about laying up treasures in heaven, rather than worrying about accumulating this world’s goods (Matt 6:19-21).
(3) Enjoy your blessings.
It’s not a sin to be rich. It’s not wrong to have material possessions. Nor should we feel guilty for the good things we experience in this life. The Spirit inspired apostle said, “God richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”
Enjoyment and pleasure is not always in the Christian’s vocabulary. However, one of the recurring themes of the book of Ecclesiastes is to enjoy life each day. The Preacher wrote, “Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage” (Eccl. 5:18).
(4) Share with Others.
God wants us to use our resources to do good and help others. There are two traps we can fall into with wealth. We may become consumed with selfish, shallow pleasures. Or we may rationalize because we don’t have the wealth of a millionaire or billionaire, we can’t do much to help others.
A balanced view of our resources allows us to enjoy them, support our families, but also share our blessings. In addition to our Sunday contribution, there are many worthy charitable causes we can support. As well as personal occasions to help those in need.
Wealth can outlive us as we leave a legacy that enriches others’ lives.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman