The Great American Dream is to be rich. I have not met very many people who would not admit that they would love to be rich. However, my experience with rich people is that many times they are live very discontented lives. They fear losing their money. They suspect others are only interested in them for their money. They measure their value on the basis of their financial net worth.
The best words I have ever read about wealth comes from the Holy Bible. The Apostle Paul understood the effects that wealth has on the human psyche. To his protege Timothy, he told him, “Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6;17)
But Paul went beyond that, and explained how all of us, rich and non-rich alike, can find true wealth. He told Timothy, “Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.” (1 Timothy 6:18-19)
The secret of wealth is actually doing good! Rich people have the financial resources to do good, but all of us have the opportunity to do good. It might be simply helping a neighbor who asks for a favor, or visiting a friend in the hospital, or even showing kindness to a stranger. According to the words of Paul, good works stores us a ‘treasure’ in the age to come.
No one knows exactly what that means, but doing good brings a reward of its own in the here and now. I had a friend who said that he always woke up every day depressed. I asked what time he woke up, and for three weeks, I made it a point to call him almost as soon he woke up to give him some encouraging words. It did not cost me anything, but that man thanked me for years for the change it brought it his life. It did not cost me money – just a minutes out of my day.
I intend to be fabulously rich, by seeking out ways to do good each and every day. We often think it has to be something big and dramatic, but I have found that ‘goodness’ is displayed in everyday activities; being polite and respectful to clerks in stores, taking time to listen to a friend who has had a bad day, etc.
Everyone one of us has something that others need. Rich people have a responsibility to be generous, to use their wealth to do good. But all of us have time, energy, and talents that can used to help those around us. John Wesley probably said it best, “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can.” All I can add to that is – Amen.