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January 30 -- "What Does It Mean to Be Rich?"

In Jesus’ first sermon, he using the words of the prophet Isaiah, to say that one of the reasons he came was “to bring good news to the poor.” When you hear the word “poor” what is your first thought?

If you’re like most people we think of those who are facing financial difficulties. That might be one subset of the “poor” that Jesus was talking about, but for Jesus “poor” comes in many forms, and as crazy as it sounds, Jesus often talks about the rich as being the poorest of all! Is that crazy? Maybe not.

Back in 923, six of the wealthiest men in our nation met in a hotel in Chicago for a conference. Their combined assets equaled more than the funds in the entire United States Treasury? For years these six men were proclaimed as men who had it all. Let me tell you who they were and what happened to them: First was Charles Schwab. He was the president of the largest independent steel company at the time. In the last five years of his life, he lived on borrowed money and died penniless. Next was Richard Whitney, president of the New York Stock Exchange. At the end of his life, he spent time in Sing-Sing prison. Albert Fall, was a member of the president’s cabinet. He was pardoned from prison at the end of his life so he could go home to die. There was Jesse Livermore, called by some as “the greatest bear on Wall Street.” He ended his own life. Ivan Krueger, was head of the world’s greatest monopoly at the time. He also committed suicide. And finally, there was Leon Frasier, the president of the Bank of International Settlement. He was the third person in group of six who committed suicide.

Being rich doesn’t mean you aren’t poor.

Just as counter-intuitive is another seeming contradiction Jesus points out: Not having a lot of money doesn’t mean you’re not rich. Again, it sounds crazy, but it’s not.

Long ago, the story goes, that there was a rich man named Carl. He loved to ride his horse through his vast estate to congratulate himself on his wealth. One day he rode past Hans, an old tenant farmer who had just sat down to eat his lunch in the shade of a great oak tree. Hans’ head was bowed in prayer. When Hans looked up, he said, “Oh, excuse me, Sir. I didn’t see you. I was giving thanks for my food.”

“Hmph!” snorted the rich man, Carl, noticing the coarse dark bread and cheese which made up the old man’s lunch. “If that were all I had to eat, I don’t think I would feel like giving thanks.

“Oh,” replied Hans, “it is quite sufficient.” Then Hans said to Carl, “Sir, I feel I should tell you I had a strange dream must before waking this morning. ... There was beauty and peace all around, and yet I could hear a voice saying, “The richest man in the valley will die tonight.”

“Dreams!” cried Carl. “Nonsense!” He turned and galloped away. Hans prayed as he watched the horse and rider disappear.

Die tonight, mused Carl. It was ridiculous! No use going into panic. The best thing to do about the old man’s dream was to forget it. But he couldn’t forget it. He had felt fine, at least until Hans described his stupid dream. Now he didn’t feel too well. That evening he called his doctor, who was also a personal friend. “Could you come over now. I need to talk to you.” When the doctor arrived, Carl told him the old man’s dream – how the richest man in the valley would die that night.

“Sounds like poppycock to me,’ the doctor said, “but for your peace of mind, let’s examine you.” A little later, his examination complete, the doctor was full of assurances. “Carl, you’re as strong and healthy as the horse you ride. There’s no way you’re going to die tonight.” Carl thanked his friend.

It was about 9 a.m. the next morning when a messenger arrived at Carl’s door. “It’s old Hans. He died last night in his sleep.”

True wealth doesn’t reside in the size of your bank account, or the seven-digit figure on the bottom line of your stock portfolio. True wealth is found in celebrating the presence of God in our lives, and living in the gifts the Lord has given us – family, friends, community, faith.

Today take stock of what you do have, you might find out that you’re a pretty rich person.

~ In Christ, Dan

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