Money has this strange influence upon those who hold it. If we are not careful, those who hold money will find themselves being held by that which they thought was theirs. Andy Stanely helps us understand these dangers and points us in the right direction in How to Be Rich. This is perhaps the best modern, popular treatment on the topic of money that I have read. It certainly is not a critical examination of economics, poverty, and so on. It is, however, real and challenging, offering good counsel in the area of money. It’s short, easy to read, and quick to prompt one to reflection. If you have the chance go ahead and grab a copy and enjoy. Be sure to give it away when your done so you can spread the wealth.
Using historical anecdotes, self-deprecating humor, and a fair treatment of Scripture Stanley weaves an argument that takes the reader from the place of wanting to be rich to wanting to be good at being rich. The flow of his argument begins by challenging the reader to consider that he or she is already rich, a “have” living with “have-not” mentality. The fact that one is reading the book, wondering if wether they might in fact be rich, suggests that the reader is rich. On a global perspective, those of us who live in the West are rich. Premise one is that we are NOT becoming rich; we ARE rich. (chapter 1)
Our problem is not that we do not have wealth, but that we don’t know what to do with wealth. To compound things (no pun intended … well, maybe a little pun) we are becoming richer. Premise two is that the richer we become the harder it is to become good at being rich. (chapter 2) The danger in becoming richer is that we now have more resources to draw upon and like the man in jesus’ parable who suddenly found himself with a larger than expected harvest we are tempted to build up new money strongholds and live the good life. Our hope does not (should not) be placed in riches. Premise three is that we trip ourselves up when fail to place our hope in God. (chapter 3)
This misplaced hope is a symptom of a growing epidemic – affluenza. That’s right, affluenza. The more affluent we become the more dire our situation because the potential for destruction is so much greater. There is only one antidote to affluenza, generosity. Generosity, however, is a systemic antidote, which means that we need to take in small, regular doses. A one time act of generosity is not likely to be effective as a lifetime of small investments. That is premise four. (chapter 4) For this reason Stanley recommends the three Ps of giving: priority giving (a regular, discipline plan as opposed to a sporadic approach); percentage giving (start with 10%); progressive giving (as your income increases try to increase your percentage).
At this point, one is well on his or her way to being good at being rich. However, there is something we should be aware of – discontentment, or appetite. The richer we become the more our appetite will be inclined to grow, because it will be accustomed to consuming more. If we do not learn the secret of contentment then we will be sure to shipwreck our progress at being good at being rich. (chapter 5)
The big picture reality is that until we learn to see all that is as belonging to God, we will never reach our full potential at being good at being rich. We must realize that we hold everything in trust for God; He owns it all! (chapter 6) This known reality is what set the early church apart from their neighbors in the first century. The main reason we should become good at being rich is because God was rich toward us in love and such a generosity is attractive. How we live with what we have has the potential to transform lives. This closing quote summarizes Stanley’s heart and message well,
The hallmark of Christians in the first century was not their wealth. They had none. It was not their theology either, their beliefs were so odd, religious people couldn’t understand them. What gave them leverage was their inexplicable compassion and generosity. They had little, but they gave. They received little compassion, but they were willing to extend what they had to other people. They were impossible to ignore.
May we be impossible to ignore … for the right reasons.
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