I heard on the radio this morning that Bill Gates is, once again, the richest man on the planet. He beat out the likes of President Trump, Oprah, you, and me. In all honesty, and I recognize this may not be true for you, but I am not even in that race. I am not even allowed on the track to run that race. I can’t even watch that race on TV.
And I thank God that is the case.
I’ll be honest, my first reaction when I heard about Gates was, I could do so much good with that much money. I thought about all the ministries I could support, the starving children across the world I could feed, the cool stuff I could do for Engage.
And then I realized a few things that made me so incredibly grateful God has not forced me to carry the burden of immense financial wealth.
I am completely convinced that having that much money would kill my soul. When we look through history, we can see that great wealth became more of a nightmare than a blessing.
Consider lottery winners. There are countless stories of people who won the lottery and it was credited in their deaths. According to a story in Time Magazine, “about 70% of people who suddenly receive a windfall of cash will lose it within a few years.” Google “Curse of the Lottery” and you will find more depressing stories than you would ever want to read.
While the statistics are different, there are many who work hard and find incredible wealth only for it to destroy them. We have all heard stories of actors, athletes, comedians, and musicians who reached the pinnacle of success only to commit suicide or for their lives to go down the drain while every moment of their breakdown is caught by paparazzi.
We all like to think we would be the exception; that riches and fame wouldn’t destroy us. But there are so few who have handled those burdens well (and I call them burdens intentionally) and so many who have handled them poorly, the odds are not in my favor—or yours.
Why would it kill my soul? First, because it would make my life easier to revolve around me. It is easy for me to think how much money I would give to ministries or starving children if I had tons of it. But how much am I giving of what God has given me now? If I am not generous with what God has blessed me with today, what makes me think I would be more generous with what He gives me tomorrow?
The only thing having that much wealth would accomplish for me would be to make me feel more self-sufficient. And Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, an excellent preacher we have discussed on our podcast, says believing ourselves to be self-sufficient is the pinnacle of sin:
“The height of sin is not to feel any need of the grace of God. There is no greater sin than that. Infinitely worse than committing some sin of the flesh is to feel that you are independent of God, or that Christ need never have died on the cross of Calvary. There is no greater sin than that. That final self-sufficiency, and self-satisfaction, and self-righteousness, is the sin of sins; it is sin at its height, because it is spiritual sin.”
Having all the wealth of Bill Gates would definitely allow me to believe I was self-sufficient because I would not have to rely on God for any physical need. Anything I wanted, anything I desired, I could acquire for myself. And that would make me miss out on the sweet experience of hearing God say, “No.”
It is weird to think God saying you can’t have something as a sweet sound, but it is. When I tell my children they can’t eat ice cream and brownies for breakfast, they aren’t happy with me. However, when they are adults and still have their teeth because I said no to their childish desires, they will be grateful.
Hearing God say no and being obedient to His voice is one of the greatest experiences of the Christian life. It is an exercise of faith.
When God tells us no, whether it be to something physical, emotional, relational, or some other –al, we are placing our faith in Him for something better.
That doesn’t mean that if He says no to a Porsche we can expect a Bugatti. But we can expect deeper intimacy with Him. We can expect our desire for Him to increase and our desire for the world to decrease. What could be a better gift than that?
The writer of Proverbs 30:8-9 echoes this. He says, “…give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and says, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
I am reliant on God not just for the provisions I need, but to withhold the provisions that would make me less reliant on Him.
So when I hear Bill Gates is back on top of the richest men in the world, I am happy for him. I hope he handles it well. But I am even more grateful that I am not him and that God did not give me that burden to bear.