The problem with the ‘rich’

The problem is that for most of us, we instinctively know that "rich" doesn't apply to us.

Yme Woensdregt

Let me invite you to read the title of this column correctly. I’m not talking about people who are rich. This column is not about “the rich” or “the one per cent”. The problem I want to identify is that for most of us, we instinctively know that “rich” doesn’t apply to us.

I grew up in a household which claimed never to be rich. One of my father’s favourite sayings was — you guessed it — “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” My family’s story was that we never had enough.

It didn’t matter that we always had electricity and a warm house and food on the table and enough clothes to wear, that we had a car and annual vacations in a cottage when I was very young, and later a tent trailer which took us from Surrey to the Okanagan. It didn’t matter that we had a TV (do you remember those old, small black and white sets?). We were far from rich.

It doesn’t matter that we know in our minds, or sometimes see with our eyes, what real poverty looks like. It doesn’t matter that we know that even the poorest in our society has more stuff than 80 per cent of the people in the rest of the world. We just know that we are not rich.

I visited a website where I could input my salary, and it calculates my wealth in relation to the rest of the world. It tells me that I am in the wealthiest 2.5 per cent of people in the world. Even when I input the poverty line in Canada ($20,000), that amount puts people in the top 12 per cent of the world’s wealth. But that doesn’t matter; we are not rich.

And that’s why “rich” is a problem. “Rich” simply doesn’t apply to me. “Others” are rich; not us. They have more. We have less.

So when the Bible warns “those who are rich”, it doesn’t apply to us. Both Jesus and the Old Testament prophets warn the rich about the dangers of wealth. Those stories, of course, are meant for someone else —”Wow, I wonder what I would do if I were rich. Would I be able to sell everything, give to the poor, and follow Jesus?” Or, “Wow, it will be hard for those folks to get into the Kingdom of God. I should pray for them.”

Then comes a wonderful story in Mark’s gospel which redefines the question and does us a great favour. A man runs up to Jesus in Mark 10:17. We don’t know anything about him, except that he wants to know what he must do to inherit life.

Jesus loves this man, and invites him to live deeply and abundantly: “Go, sell what you have, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come! Follow me!”

But the man becomes gloomy, and goes away sad. As the translation “The Message” puts it, “he walked off with a heavy heart.”

Why? Because he was “someone who had a lot of stuff.” Literally, he had “many possessions.” Or as The Message puts it, “He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.”

Uh oh.

“He had a lot of stuff. He wasn’t about to loosen his grip.”

Now that sounds familiar. Mark’s warning is not for someone who is “rich”. The warning is for someone “who has a lot of stuff.”

Now that hits home.

It hits home in garages cluttered with too many bicycles. It hits home in bookshelves with too many books or DVD’s or other stuff. It hits home in houses loaded up with retired phones and iPads and computers and televisions and multiple sets of dishes and overflowing closets and basketfuls of toys.

Jesus doesn’t warn “the rich”— those ethereal others — but us. Us! “Oh, how tough it is for those who have a ton of crap (okay, more literally, ‘a lot of stuff’) to enter the kingdom of God!”

This is not for some mysterious “them.” It is for us.

Why might this be so? I think “The Message” translation helps us understand why — we hold on tightly to our stuff, so tightly that sometimes it seems as if our stuff owns us. Imagine the freedom of letting go. Imagine, if you even can, the sense of no longer being held by our stuff.

So let’s leave behind the word “rich”. It is too full of problems for us. Let’s dwell on the challenge for those non–rich who still have too much. Let’s just acknowledge that our lives are cluttered by all this stuff around us.

How difficult it will be for those… for us… for me… who have a ton of crap to enter the kingdom of God. Imagine letting go of the clutter… and living abundantly.

Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

Wolf photo by Brian Hay
2020 hunting season review and wildlife update: Part III

This is Part III of a three-part series by F.J. Hurtak, looking at the issues of the 2020 hunting and wildlife management season

It happened this week in 1914

Jan. 10 - 16: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the newspapers at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Piling in place along Innis Avenue in Cranbrook, part of the new Broadstreet Properties development. David Humphrey photo
Innis Avenue to close to all traffic starting January 18

Avenue facing new development will be closed from Monday, Jan. 18 to Thursday, Jan. 21, for sewer connection

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Most Read