RICH MAN, POOR MAN

Last week London, Ontario grocery store clerk Bonnie Preece won $20.6 million in the 649 lottery.  She was making $12.30 an hour and now she has over 20 million dollars to live on.  I feel sorry for her.  Winning the lottery almost always ruins people.  William “Bud” Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988.  A former girlfriend successfully sued him for a share of his winnings. His brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to kill him, hoping to inherit a share of the winnings. Other siblings pestered Post until he agreed to invest in a car business and a restaurant in Sarasota, Florida.  Both ventures failed.  Within a year, he was $1 million in debt.  Then he went to jail for firing a gun over the head of a bill collector.  He eventually declared bankruptcy.  Now he lives quietly on $450 a month and food stamps.  “I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare,” says Post.

It is not being rich that destroys people.  It is what it does to their attitude that ruins them.  Proverbs 18:23 says, The poor man uses soft entreaties, but the rich man answers roughly.  This should invoke the mental picture of a lowly servant speaking softly when making a request knowing he has little clout.  The wealthy man on the other hand has financial power behind him and speaks in a demanding and condescending way.  Donald Trump’s Apprentice comes to mind.  The upstart young entrepreneurs answer The Donald carefully hoping to win his favour.  Trump barks back at them, “As project manager, the failure is yours and yours alone, you were disorganized and sloppy, you will never make it like that in this business, you’re FIRED!”  For some strange reason the masses are entertained by this demeaning, egotistical and self-important display of power.  How is it that this old school buffoon is being held up as the model and a mentor for today’s executives?

The bigger question is; who are we supposed to be?  The rich man or the poor man?  Jesus answered the question in the beatitudes when he said, Blessed are the poor in spirit,  for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  He didn’t say it was good to be poor, but poor in spirit.  Irrespective of our wealth we should strive to maintain the gentle entreaty of the poor instead of the harsh dismissiveness of the rich.

 

When I was a young pastor one of the big name American TV preachers came to our church.  He arrived in his own Lear jet and taught brilliantly on loving the non-christian in order to bring them to Christ.  The next day I was privileged to join him for lunch.  To my shock and amazement, he was so rude to the waitress I was embarrassed.  After we left the restaurant, I secretly returned and apologized to the waitress explaining to her that he was an idiot who didn’t know any better.  It was after the experience I stumbled upon Proverbs 18:23, The poor man uses soft entreaties, but the rich man answers roughly.  I realized that this preacher had taken on the spirit of a ‘rich man’.  I decided right then and there that I was going to strive to live by the spirit of the ‘poor man’.  It is not easy for me.  I realize I am an outspoken, opinionated A type personality. 

I slipped up this past weekend.  About a year ago a young man in our church saw me eating a cupcake.  He said, “Hi, Cupcake”.  It felt it was totally inappropriate and disrespectful but I let it go and jokingly said, “That’s Pastor Cupcake to you.”   After a very demanding and busy Sunday service this week he passed me and again said, “Hi Cupcake”.  I snapped at him and said, “DON’T CALL ME THAT… IT’S NOT FUNNY!”  As soon as I had walked away I realized I had gone ‘rich man’.  When I turned around to apologize for my harshness he was gone. 

Jesus was the King of Kings and yet He came into the world literally and figuratively as a poor man.  The only times he raised his voice He was yelling at the weather, demons or the occasional dead person.(Dead people are hard of hearing).  We all have to decide what kind of people we want to be.  Our world already has enough boorish and mean-spirited people.  We should strive to live to a higher standard… ironically that of a ‘poor man’. How is our grocery clerk multi-millionaire going to make out.  Well, the first thing she said was, “I have a message for my ex-husband… SUCKS TO BE YOU!”

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