You Are Wealthier Than You Think

Luxury.

Upscale Home Front Door

On more than one occasion, that’s been my first thought as I’ve stood in a home grander than mine, taking in the massive mahogany furnishings, the ample space, the stainless steel kitchen stocked with the best, overlooking a huge yard with a pool and hot tub. From the crystal chandelier to the books on the shelves, everything was beautiful. It wasn’t just nice stuff, it was the American Dream.

And it wasn’t just the American Dream, it was the ideal picture of carefree living.

We could live like this.

I’m not so proud of my first thought.

Or my second.

And by the time we were packing our family back into our well-loved minivan, I was feeling sorry for myself.

Not just because I wanted more, but I wanted to feel less. I wanted to escape The Knowing.

But it wasn’t just a pity party, it was a guilty pity party, because I knew if I was going to compare what I had with someone who had more, I also had to compare myself to someone who had much less. And if I was going to wish for the moment that I didn’t know  how the rest of the world lives, I would also have to remember how empty and selfish that ignorance made me feel.

My husband told me just that when he heard me sigh on the drive home. He reminded me that people we love from Kenya will stay in our home again. And then he said, “Will they be able to tell the difference between our house and our carefree life and the one we just left?”

I thought of our ample space and big backyard, our life filled with conveniences, how each of my kids have their own bedroom and how we want for very little and I knew he was exactly right.

Oh, perspective. You get me every time.

the only way to compare

I felt guilty that once again, I looked longingly at the American Dream and even more so at being oblivious. But some days when this burden is too heavy, the responsibility and inadequacy suffocating, I wish I could unsee human suffering that keeps me awake at night. And that my friends, is an honest glimpse into my not-always-pure-heart.

I couldn’t help but think about this quote that describes me so well.

I avoided coming to visit the poor…. for a long time. I was afraid my heart would be broken by their condition. Instead, today, I found my heart broken by my condition,” Ken Davis

My heart hurts for the world, but it breaks for me. Because, yeah. I’m a mess. And I constantly need to be reminded just how rich I am. It was one of the hardest chapters to write in Rhinestone Jesus–this deeper look into my wealth and abundance I enjoy and often take for granted.

Because I will always have more than most and less than some.

We balance mortgages and car payments and try to finagle our budgets to add music lessons and unexpected broken air conditioners and we bristle when we are called rich. But the truth is, if we have enough money to access a computer that allows us to read these words, we are among the richest people in the world. Still not convinced? I dare you to take this test and discover just how rich you are.

Once we accept the truth, we have a choice. Do we keep piling it up for ourselves or do we share it? And I’ve learned for me, it’s really about how tightly I hold onto my stuff, money included. Because when I open my hands to give, I also open them to receive. We can be a conduit, standing in the middle between God and people in need, ready to give spontaneously.

“We don’t give because we have a lot. We give because we’ve been given a lot to give away.” Rhinestone Jesus

By the time I got back home that night, I didn’t feel bad about what I didn’t have or what I’d missed and I didn’t regret what we’d given away.

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill.

That’s the power of a generous life.

I saw how much I had, how wealthy I really am.

Once again, perspective was a gift to help me remember that generosity makes me far richer than luxury.

 


Comments

  1. 1

    says

    So much of what you’ve been talking about resonates with me and my dissertation research on international development and aid programs. The average American (myself included) has no idea…or maybe we know exactly how others live and choose to ignore it. A turning point for me was watching the documentary Darwin’s Nightmare. Unimaginable.

  2. 2

    says

    I understand what you mean. My husband often says that he’s glad our house is so small and humble because then none of our brothers and sisters will struggle when they come to visit us.

    But I do dream of having space.

  3. 4

    says

    Such good timing as I was mulling over our well-loved home and car, and how so many of my friends live in a better neighborhood with brand new homes… This is what I needed to read: “My heart hurts for the world, but it breaks for me. Because, yeah. I’m a mess. And I constantly need to be reminded just how rich I am.” Thanks for this post, Kristen!

  4. 5

    JB says

    I GET this. Deeply. What I struggle with are the next steps. That wide chasm between knowing and doing. That’s where I hit a wall. I want to serve God by giving what He’s given, but it’s the “doing” that I envision but cannot realize.

  5. 6

    Gina says

    I cried. I am struggling with this right now. Everyone seems to be moving forward while we remain. I am part angry, part ashamed. Thank you for the boldness it took to share your words. I really needed to read them today.

  6. 7

    Tami says

    Crying. I battle this back and forth so much … wanting more, then wanting to live more simply so that I can give more to others. I did the test and found out just how rich we are. More tears. Praying that God changes my heart.

  7. 8

    Laraba says

    I spent 3 years of my childhood in a missionary village in a 3rd world country. We were wealthy compared to the local population, and we had far less than I have now. I think OFTEN how blessed we are that every single day, I have enough food to feed my family. I have never worried that the pantry will be empty. In winter, we never freeze. The roof doesn’t leak. I think that experience was very good for me as it gave me a perspective that my own children do not have. I pray I will be able to teach our kids how blessed we are when yes, other kids they know have I-Pods and Smartphones and we don’t have those things. And that’s fine. That’s good.

  8. 9

    says

    YES. to all of this. Thank you so much for sharing this truth in an authentic and non-threatening way. I have been on the side of wanting to store up and living in comparison of others, and it is just a NOT-FUN way to live. My husband has helped guide me through a lot of that which I am so grateful for. We just downsized for that very reason- GIVING AWAY nearly 1/3 of our possessions… which I absolutely do not say with pride because I was witness to my yucky heart which wanted to hold on to all of our belongings. It is so free to be on this other side of it now, my vision is clear and I see how much we had that we just don’t need. Giving away our possessions to those who needed it or who could use it was one of the most freeing and transforming acts I ever participated in!

  9. 10

    says

    AMEN. That is exactly how I have felt at times. Before I moved to another state, I was a member of The Church at Brook Hills for about five years. I still vividly remember the Radical series that led to our pastor’s book and convicted me to teach in Honduras for a year. It still deeply impacts my life and my decisions, and yet there have been times (most often when I am in a Target that has a Starbucks…) when I feel jealous of other Christians who don’t know or realize the weight of our wealth. Sometimes my flesh just wants to go back to not knowing so that I don’t have to care. But it’s like that Brook Fraser song, “Now that I have seen, I am responsible…”

  10. 11

    says

    This is so true. Sometimes we get hung up on what we don’t have that we forget how fortunate we really are. I’m on a saving money mission now, not because I want to have more but because I want to be able to retire early and enjoy my life in perhaps a tiny house.

  11. 13

    Betty says

    I agree with your thoughts. I would also like t add that living I a huge house with stainless,feel appliances a scenic back yard and even owning France cars does not equal carefree living. In some cases it equals burdens and responsibilities. You never know wt really goes on behind closed doors. There are troubles in all income levels and walks of life.

  12. 14

    says

    I was recently told that I was rich by a lady at church. I told her my husband was unemployed. I work for an hourly wage. We have old cars and tiny house. When I told my husband about the conversation, he told me that we are rich. We have all we need and a lot of what we want. I need to let the lady at church know she was right the next time I see her.

  13. 15

    says

    Thank you for this. I have just returned from a vacation where I stayed with family in a gated community where every home is about a million dollars and has a pool in the back yard. Their kids go to expensive Catholic schools and play in expensive private hockey leagues and the whole family travels internationally and is certified in scuba diving.

    And I was jealous. I don’t have a pool or a gated community. I can’t afford a lawn care worker. My showers are not sparkling clean with mood lighting and 5 jets to spray me. When I travel abroad, it’s a penny pinch. If my kid is going to want voice or hockey lessons, I’m going to have to find that money somewhere.

    But then I realized basically what you said. I have a house and a yard. I may have to scrape to do it, but I can change my home decorations to match the seasons. We can eat out and we have wifi at home, even if we can’t afford cable AND wifi. I have an iPhone, even if it is old and crappy and breaking.

    And to many people in the world, that makes me rich. It’s easy to feel sorry for myself because I’m envious of what other people have, but I feel if I had that much money, my children might grow up to be spoiled and have no idea the plight of the poor. If they get all they ever want, they never see why we need Jesus, who shows us the world can NEVER give us everything we want. And it would be easy for me to fall into the sin of feeling all that money gives me security, instead of balancing the checkbook and praying to God to help meet our needs when unexpected costs come up.

  14. 16

    says

    Really, you must be living inside my head, Kristen. We live in a wealthy community and I know many who have “more” than we do. Fancier homes, expensive summer camps, cars with all the bells and whistles. It is so hard not to get sucked in to a pity party.

    The amazing this is, though, that the more we give away and the more we SERVE, the less difficult it is to get sucked in. The more we face the poor in our community and abroad, the more content I become with LESS. It is a gift of peace God is giving me, and for that I am thankful.

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