We live in a world that worships money. If you have an abundance of it, you can do, and get away with, anything. You can advance in fields in which you have no talent. You can fail tests and still pass classes. You can be rude and obnoxious and people will overlook it. You can get arrested and get away with a slap on the wrist. If you are financially wealthy, you can even get away with murder. So, those who have an abundance of money will learn to hoard it, protect it, salivate over it, and worship it. Can you blame them? I mean, let’s be reasonable, money is the key to this world. Who doesn’t want it? Who of us has never dreamt of infinite wealth and riches?
Rather than write about my belief that there are only two categories of people, The Financially Wealthy and The Others, I will focus this post on two different categories of wealth. I have been thinking, this morning, about different types of wealth, of which there are many, but here I will compare and contrast Financial Wealth and Emotional Wealth.
I grew up in the Bronx of the 80’s and 90’s, raised by a single parent, my mom, who sometimes, as I remember, worked more than one job to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. I knew we weren’t rich because I saw rich people on TV shows. Rich kids had giant train sets that they could ride around the house on, like in that TV show “Silver Spoons.” Rich people lived in penthouses with live-in maids, like on “Different Strokes.” Rich people had doormen and owned businesses like “The Jeffersons.” We didn’t have any of that, but we had a mother who constantly told us how much she loved us. Every single day she told us that she loved us, and we knew this was true because if we arrived home fifteen minutes later than we were supposed to we’d find mom in a near panic attack and on the verge of reporting us missing. And, on top of that, every single day, she told us that we were handsome and gorgeous and smart and strong and funny. And when I say she told us these things “every single day,” that’s not an exaggeration or hyperbole, I really mean EVERY SINGLE DAY. Growing up there was never any doubt that my mom loved all three of her children with all her heart. My mom had a never-ending supply of love for us. We weren’t financially wealthy, we were emotionally wealthy.
You see, financial wealth could buy mansions and Rolls Royces, it can pay for an infinite amount of piano lessons and prestigious clubs, it can drive you around the city in a limousine, every day, and it can fly you around the world at your whim. But emotional wealth -a wealth of love- can turn your old Bronx apartment into a fortress, where nothing can touch you because mom won’t allow it. Emotional wealth provides a live example of how to love, what it is in practice, how it looks. It may not have a Rolls Royce, but it holds your hand tightly on public transportation. It kisses you goodbye everyday before school, and tells you “Be good” and “Be careful.” This is the kind of love that my mother displayed, day in and day out. The well never ran dry and, because of that, I will always look to her and rely on her for more and more love. And I will reciprocate that love, because she showed me how to love unconditionally. I am completely dependent on my mother’s love; without it, I don’t know what my existence would look like.
The bible tells us about emotional wealth, about love, in the book of I Corinthians, Chapter 13, Verses 4-7. It states that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Because of my mother, I had, and still have, a living example of what biblical love looks like. So when I talk about emotional wealth, I’m talking about this spiritual, biblical, God-given love.
I guess I wrote everything you read before this just to say that, when it comes to financial wealth and emotional wealth, I’m glad that the home I lived in was emotionally wealthy. It prepared me for the day I connected with God, when He proved his existence to me. My mothers love for me made me love her in the exact same way but, more importantly, it was like a prep school, showing me what it looks like, for the day I experience God’s love. It taught me humility and that there is something greater than the self.
I remember, years ago, being confused about a particular bible scripture that reads like this: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt 19:24). I wondered about this scripture, tossed it around in my mind a few nights, and one night I finally saw it clearly. First, a financially wealthy man finds the answer to his problems in his money. He relies on and trusts in nothing but his financial wealth because it is money that has gotten him through every obstacle he has ever faced. And, because of that reliance on money, that trust in finances, that pride in one’s own self, the rich man lacks the one thing that could get him into heaven; humility and faith in God. People usually find God when the only thing they can do is drop to their knees and pray. When life puts you in a position that forces you to realize that you are not in control, that you need some help, that’s when people find God. A rich man will never be in that situation. Secondly, the greatest love a rich man has is his love of his money. And because he can spread money and acquire something that looks like love, he settles for it, maybe even thinking that he has bought love, but just like you can’t buy your way into heaven, as the saying goes, “money can’t buy love.”
If I had never gone to jail, maybe I would never have found God, and maybe I would be living a much more comfortable life. But what is a comfortable life if you never know God? I’m less concerned with acquiring money in this life and much more concerned with living comfortably in the afterlife. I know my personal experiences have brought me here, but I believe in God’s word, so I believe that “whoever the Lord loves, He corrects” and “the steps of a righteous man are ordered by God.” So, I didn’t just wind up at this conclusion, I was led here.