What is rich?
Here is one answer for 2001 from the US Census.
In Current Dollars:
20th percentile upper limit $17,970
50th (median) $42,100
80th percentile upper limit $83,500
95th percentile lower limit $150,499
In the previous posting, we talked a bit about the hedonistic treadmill and how it impacts our happiness. The net of the post is that we are never satisfied with what we get, because we look at others and want even more for ourselves. If we find out that our immediate neighbors aren't as well off as we are, we look to more to a new neighborhood where we can compare to a better sort of people.
It would be easy to call out that the rich, the truly rich, must be in that top five percent of wealth. I will guaranty you that the vast majority of the people in the top 5 percentile of wealth do not say "Wow, I make a lot of money." No matter what level you are at, people believe they don't get paid enough. If you are in the top five percentile of wealth, then you simply compare to the people even with more wealth than yourself.
Now, let me hit you with a thought: in the USA, virtually all of us are materially rich beyond our wildest dreams when compared to history. The Lord has given so much to us that we must redefine the way that we are to relate to the words of wisdom about riches in the Old Testament.
Remember our friend Dr Firebaugh?
In this book The New Geography Of Global Income and Inequality, he cites Francois Bourguignon's and Christian Morrisson's calculation that in the early 1800's, 90% of the world's population made less than $2 per day in 1985 dollars. (In today's dollars, this would be $3.63 dollars per day using the CPI for 2005.)
Let me repeat that: 90% of the world's population made less than $1340 per year. Today, the world's average salary is around $7000-$8000 per year. So the whole world is far better off, and America is a shinning land of wealth.
I don't think that our Lord was grading on the scale when he talked to us in the scriptures. So ask yourself, are you the rich he talked about in the New Testament? Would you rather be a rich Jew at the time of Jesus Christ, or would you rather be lower class today?
If you were upper class in the time of Christ, you would have:
1. No fresh fruits during the winter
2. No health care of any type
3. Dirt every where, and no showers or baths
4. Schooling which pales in comparison
5. Only dim lamps and no television.
6. No refrigeration and no cans
7. No toilets
Should I go on? Living in this century means that you are living with the elite.
What Does The Bible Say About the influence of riches?
20 When I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My covenant.
So here we are, the richest of the rich, and we are not satisfied. We are unhappy. If we came from the time of Christ, we could not fathom the wealth of riches even our "poor" have in this country.
So, let us relook at this scripture above:
..they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My covenant
How much more could this describe us?
1. We have grown fat in our Western culture
2. We have turned to other gods
So next time you read warning words of the scripture about weath, realize that those words apply, if you are reading this, to you. You can't hide behind the fact that there is somebody in your neighborhood with more money, because God sees down the corridors of time not only the confines of our local block.
So what is left other than we should prepare for the provoking of the Lord?