True wealth consists not in what money can buy but in what relationships can bring. Yet we are informed constantly through multiple media that money is the most essential means for attaining the “good life” we all are supposed to want, namely the happiness and peace of mind which reportedly come through having enough, whatever “enough” might signify to us.
This is what our consumer mentality seems to believe; this is what we are taught to strive after, namely to “be like” and to “keep up” with those peers we seek to emulate. Many times I have heard it said, and as a youth I secretly wondered whether it was true: “Money may not be everything, but it can sure get you most everything.”
But can it? I recently received an email that detailed what money can and cannot buy you. It read in part, “Money can buy you a house, but not a home. It can buy you a bed, but not sleep. It can buy you a clock, but not time. It can buy you a book, but not knowledge. It can buy you a position, but not respect. It can buy you medicine, but not health. It can buy you blood, but not life. It can buy you sex, but not love.”
Culturally speaking, persons with less material wealth generally focus more on their relationships. In so doing, having less but appreciating each other more, such persons are actually wealthier than they might grasp at the time.
Back when I was a pastor in the 1990s, I took a group of youth and adults to a town in northern Mexico. We went down there from central Iowa to assist them in rebuilding a church. We spent an intensive week. The shock for our youth was how happy the Mexican youth seemed to be with so few material possessions. Their homes were very small and mostly had dirt floors. Yet they were apparently happier with so little than my youth were with so much. How can this be, my youth group wondered?
This led to a great discussion concerning the nature of true wealth. I asked the youth, “What do the Mexican youth have?” Their corporate answer: “Their families are so close; they have each other. They are not alone. They understand that they are all in it together.” Then I asked the youth, “Are you lonely? Do you feel alone?” The youth responded affirmatively. That gave me the occasion to talk about what really matters in life, about the nature of true wealth.
I said that at the end of our life, if we have time to review and reflect, our thoughts will be on love relationships, not material things. I shared what one well-known pastor reportedly said after nearly dying from a heart attack. As he lay in the ER, wondering if his end had come, three questions plagued him: “Who loves me? Whom do I love? Have I served the Lord?”
I said that the poorest people I know are those whose life focus is on attaining things, and all the trappings which come with material wealth, including prestige and power. Yet they do so at the expense of relationships. I told them they could not run after both money and love. Rather, as we all must, they had to choose their source of wealth.
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