We'd moved into a new area, so my wife called
a church we thought about attending. She spoke with the pastor. He said he'd come over and talk with us. We'd never met the man before.
When he was coming up our sidewalk, he didn't know we could see him. Not knowing he was being observed, he revealed a little of himself. He
looked at our house with contempt, then changed his look for greeting us at the door.
Now I want you to know, our house wasn't a slum to deserve such a withering look. Granted, we weren't rich. We'd bought a house in a section of
town that was filled with older homes. It was wonderful to us. The house wasn't run down, just not wealthy and modern. Our house was clean and
the lawn cut and trimmed. No dead vehicles were laying around, no garbage here and there. His look was because it wasn't one of the expensive
homes, found in other parts of town. We didn't figure out why he gave our house this look, until the end of our conversation. We never addressed
it with him, but by fluke the conversation turned to money.
He was very proud of the number of exceedingly rich people who lived around the area. The way he talked, I'd have thought the rich were rich
because of something he did! The amount of money in the area meant a great deal to him. It was clear that money controlled how he viewed and
Beware of Judging over Money
The love of money sneaks up in so many ways, and so frequently. Let's take a look at what James said about this problem:
1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there
come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile
raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place;
and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are
become judges of evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in
faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do
not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the
which ye are called? 8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye
do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. James
The problem of judging others over their money, isn't limited to John Q. Public. We all fall prey to it, so must take special care to avoid falling
into this way of thinking.
James calls judging others by their money, "respect to persons". Without thinking about our motive, we do this in many ways. We're not
usually as blatant as James describes, but we do act under this same corrupt motivation.
Something we all need to be aware of, not all rich men are the oppressors as one might assume James is indicating. I've seen the poor
oppressing and the rich being the persecuted. James was describing a predominant problem, not a hard and fast rule.
Condemning the Poor
I'm going to do something I'm leery about in most circumstances. I'm going to use personal illustrations. In this instance, I can't see a better
way to bring out the point.
When my son was going to join a baseball team, he was in the car at the park while my wife was taking care of things. He was alone with the
windows open. Up came some boys his age, and started insulting to him over the car. It was an older Toyota Tercel, clean but faded blue paint.
(Don't laugh, its paid for!) It wasn't beat up. I couldn't justify paying $350 a month, when my income couldn't budget such an expense. I know, that
doesn't stop some people, but it does me. By the way, my wife was a coach that year. It turned out that the boys who were picking on
my son, were on the same team as my son with my wife as their coach! When they realized that, they strangely straightened up. It's kind of like
an Esther and Haman story.
The point of this story's that people easily judge others by their possessions. As I see it, I'd rather have a poorer looking car. That way, those
who'd judge me by my possessions will be honestly nasty to me, instead of my having a nice looking car, and they lie to butter me up. If they're
like that, I'd rather honestly know they're such. If I have friends, I want honest friends who like me for who I am, not what I've got. This problem's
probably far more common than you'd begin to realize.
Another condemning the poor story took place in my life many years ago. My wife and I had one child at the time. Our budget had been reduced
to as small as we could possibly make it. We had no credit cards to pay or anything like that. We had an old, almost broken down car (sometimes
broken down). I remember running out of toothpaste and not being able to buy any for about a month. We fortunately had baking soda, oh yum
yum, though my wife now strangely enjoys the stuff. We also had $20 to buy food for the three of us. It had to make it for three weeks. We ate a
lot of macaroni and cheese and Top Ramen¨. We didn't want to get on the welfare food supply, so didn't. At this same
time, we continued faithfully tithing. We also had people around us who hated us with a seething hatred. We
didn't know the reason, at the time. Years later, my wife was recalling this period in our lives with someone.
This person started crying and related the rest of the story. The reason we were meeting such hostility, was
because someone was spreading the story they were paying our bills for us. This wasn't true, but at least
some who heard this story despised us, thinking we were freeloading. Some even tried to figure out how much
we earned and calculated that we must be freeloading to be making it. Let me add here that no one else knew
about situations like the toothpaste and how much we had to buy food with. I hope this story will make anyone
who easily thinks lightly of the poor, to think a second and third time before they despise them. Appearances
can easily be deceiving, and Satan can always provide a misinformer to further his work.
Remember, a major portion of Jesus' work was to help the poor. The continuing responsibility fell on the church.
Jesus always considered the poor:
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt
have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Matthew 19:21
Jesus made it His goal to see the poor weren't neglected due to poverty:
18a The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; Luke 4:18a
Unless Jesus was in the habit of giving to the poor, His disciples wouldn't have come to the following conclusion:
29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we
have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. John 13:29
The early church saw it as part of their responsibility to help the poor:
26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at
Jerusalem. Romans 15:26
In Corinthians, we see the problem of shaming the poor, the despising that took place. We see it strongly condemned:
22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have
not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. 1 Corinthians 11:22
Finally, we see this important charge was laid upon Paul by the apostles in Jerusalem:
10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. Galatians 2:10
Hating the Rich
The sin of judging by income doesn't only fall on the rich or comfortable. It's just as vibrant among the poor. This is the sin of covetousness.
Let's talk Microsoft and Bill Gates. From those around me, I came under the distinct impression most were for the breakup of Microsoft. The
primary reason - they think it's wrong for one man to be so rich. Their basis for wanting the breakup had nothing really to do with "monopolies" or
the possible "unethical business practices" of Bill Gates. They wanted to see a big man fall. They said he had so much money, he could afford to
lose it. They accuse Bill Gates of being unethical, but I have to wonder about their ethics, delighting in seeing the rich suffer because he's rich.
You see, this wickedness of judging by money, goes both ways: rich to poor and poor to rich.
Next, we have what I call the Bolshevik attitude. By this, I'm referring to the revolution in Russia under Lenin in the early 1900's. Lenin stirred the
Bolshevik laborers, complaining about the rich landowners, and convincing the poor that the rich should justly lose their belongings. The property
should become the possession of all the common people. We find that attitude again, "Why should that other man have more than me? It's not
fair, so I'll just take it!" That kind of thinking sprouted the Bolshevik Revolution that started the many hard years of oppressive Soviet Socialist life.
Before my wife and I made a major move in our lives, we were living at poverty level. We didn't get on the welfare system. I worked for a living
and paid my taxes. I didn't have a lot left for my own family's basic needs. A neighbor sucked the system for all it was worth. That neighbor didn't
work for a living. They had a new car and a house bought for them by my tax dollars. We struggled and supported ourselves, they partied and
enjoyed the handouts. Believe me, I'd rather live poor than like that. Well, we made that major move. We moved to an area that held the
opportunity to still get off ground zero. We took the advantage. We got a loan for an older trailer we bought for a rental. From that we got more
and then were able to make the transfer to houses. The work was hard and meant dealing with the worst of crowds. Of course, pipes froze and
burst during the worst weather. Renters moved out suddenly without paying or left the place trashed. It meant putting the profits primarily into the
property to keep growing instead of spending the profit on toys. Eventually you end up with a couple of houses that you take a good portion of the
rental income to make the payments. You eventually will end up with cash in property, but in the meantime, you have a business you manage with
enough profits to help support your daily needs with lots of pains.
Now, it has been our experience that a lot of renters (not all) have the Bolshevik attitude. They hate you because you are "rich". After all, don't
you own more houses than the one you live in? You must be wealthy then, and you must be wealthy at their expense. They think it nothing to split
without paying you and even steal things from the property because you're so wealthy, you can afford the loss. I've encountered people who want
to hurt their landlords and destroy their landlord's homes, because of hatred for their assumed wealth.
After getting a few rentals, we still had to carefully watch our finances. I had health insurance I payed for monthly. When I had to go to the
doctor, I didn't go at any whim, I couldn't afford it, having a high deductible. I couldn't afford the low deductible insurance. I only went when I felt I
had to. The cost did have an impact on our pocket book. The welfare neighbor, who despised me because of my supposed "great wealth in
houses" had no such worry when they went to the doctor. My tax dollars payed for almost all their medical expenses. They didn't struggle to pay
for health insurance and easily went to the physician for any whim. It was so cheap for them. The people who have no qualms about perpetually
living on the system, those who don't really try to get a job or keep one, easily hate those who fight tooth and nail to stand on their own. If they
see them begin to get a footing, or appear to get ahead, they plot to take it from them.
I encountered one welfare recipient who felt the welfare office owed him those checks and spoke in the most abusive language to the office
personnel when the checks didn't come on time.
Let me add here that not all people on welfare are like this. There are those truly in need and who will do their best to get on their own footing
again. It's for this type of person the system was created. The reason I bring them up specifically as a class, is because the abusers flock to the
system, and these abusers have that Bolshevik attitude. They hate those they believe to be "rich" and would love to relieve them of whatever they
have. What's more, I've seen some of these people involved in churches. This attitude isn't found just outside the church.
A slight drift in this area of the topic, falls in the envy department. Some of the poor see those with more money who are stingy in the church.
They suffer in their poverty and are infuriated when they see Mr. and Mrs. Tightwad complain about how they have to watch their pennies, when
they have three or four new cars in the driveway of a palatial house. Now the Tightwads may not realize how they look, or what real poverty is, but
the poor need to remember that this bitterness and envy breeds a Bolshevik attitude. We easily look away from God as our Supplier and look to
things and circumstances. Bitterness begins to fill our hearts, and gratitude to God goes. Our fellowship with God is severed when we let the
Tightwads burrow under our skin.
5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will
never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man
shall do unto me. Hebrews 13:5,6
This passage speaks multitudes to our aching hearts. He is faithful to care for us. We can, if we choose, look to Him in our poverty and abide in
peace as we journey through it. It's never easy, but it's possible. Peace is much preferable to envy and hate.
Holding on to that Money
Something that hits all of us, both poor and rich is the inability to let go of money. This is a broad topic in itself, but I want to bring up just one
point. I was at a freewill offering concert of a certain Christian musician. He gave a rather powerful testimony and I believe he was really working
for God. When the offering plate was passed around, I noticed a very elderly lady sitting in front of me. I was curious if she would make any
offering, considering her age, possibly fixed income level and musical taste. She didn't contribute anything. What interested me was that a little
later, after the offering, an intermission was given. People could just stretch their legs or buy copies of his music at some tables in the hall. She
came back with music she'd purchased. In my ponderings I thought, "People give only if they materially get something in exchange. The unselfish
hearts so rare today." That's why many ministries try getting people to give by offering gifts if they make an offering right then. A limited time
offer! Oh, for the love of money!
1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. 2 And he saw also a certain poor
widow casting in thither two mites. 3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more
than they all: 4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath
cast in all the living that she had. Luke 21:1-4
Many poor feel they're so poor they can't afford to contribute, but pay special attention to this account in Luke. If we refrain from giving, we
withhold God's ability to return more abundant blessing on us.
16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:16
To communicate means to help by giving. The writer of Hebrews refers to this as a sacrifice. God isn't ignorant of this fact.
I've dealt with a very difficult issue here. We need to stop pursuing the love of money. Hopefully, I've opened some eyes where this love is
flourishing, when it was thought to be absent. This is a serious problem that needs to be squarely faced, whether you're poor, rich, or somewhere
in between. Start an honest accounting before God of your attitudes in this. From there, start rectifying the books. Get an honestly balanced book
in your heart before God.