(I was asked to write an article for Every Thought Captive magazine about the dangers of Vanity Fair. It was due just a few days before Pastor Naing Thang came to my visit my home for the first time. It was published during my visit. Admittedly I am still struggling with this issue, but I found some resolution in the word of God you may find enlightening)
Should We Feel Guilty Because We Are Rich?
In nine days a man from 8500 miles away, who lives in a third-world county and cooks his meals over a fire in his back yard, is coming to stay at my house.
Knowing this has done strange things to me. I’ve found it hard to live with how live. Suddenly, I see myself through the eyes of a man whose people are daily on the verge of starvation.
Through my own eyes, I have come to see myself as a somewhat poor, thrifty, father and pastor, making do with what I have. Since I heard my visitor was coming, I think I am beginning to see more clearly in some ways and tempted to be unthankful in others. I, unlike Bunyan’s good pilgrim, have been guilty of shopping at the Vanity Fair.
For the past few weeks I’ll be going about my regular business and I’ll open up my refrigerator and “BAM,” I see it through the eyes of my good brother from Burma.
“There’s no way he can look in here,” I call out to my wife. “No way. We’ll have to move some of this to the refrigerator in the basement.”
Then it happens again when we stop at a gas station, put $75 of gasoline in our 15-passenger van and then go to Dairy Queen.
The whole time I’m doing it, I feel the presence of a little, smiling, black-eyed pastor sitting beside me. Sitting there, watching all of this, I know he must be wondering where all this money comes from and when this fat guy will stop eating.
My wife’s been worried too. We’ve talked about it a lot.
“He just doesn’t understand our way of life,” I tell her, trying to comfort her, and myself, all the while wondering if I’m a waster and a glutton.
As the words come out of my mouth I hear other words in my head.
“The problem is not that he doesn’t understand,” the voice says. “The problem is, he understands better than you.”
Maybe I’m not what I have come to see myself as; I’m more like this new disturbing image. Have I been deceived? Does God have more work to do in me than I thought He did? Certainly.
Is it wrong to be rich? Should I feel guilty eating my Reese’s Cup Blizzard with my long red plastic spoon? Should I feel sorry for my brothers in Burma?
I don’t feel so go, I’m almost motion sick just thinking about it. I have to go to the Word to find my bearings.
I don’t think the Bible teaches wealth is a sin or me being wealthy. So what’s wrong? What’s causing me so much difficulty?
In Pilgrim’s progress, Vanity is a city on the road to the Celestial City. It is not off the path like the Slough of Despond. We all must travel the streets of Vanity and pass by the wares offered to us at the Fair, this is part of our journey. This is not a city we can bypass, God has made us “subject to vanity.”
My visitor is traveling though Vanity Fair back home in Yangon and I’m traveling though it here in Ohio. Both of us are tempted to compare ourselves and our circumstances with one another. We are both tempted to feel pride and shame. We are both tempted to be discontent and unthankful. But this is not our calling. Our calling is to deny ourselves, take up “OUR” cross and follow Jesus, whatever or wherever that cross is.
I could be proud of my wealth or ashamed of it, he could be proud of his poverty or ashamed of it. These are not the fruits of a Spirit-filled life. Both of us should be thankful for what God has given us and content our provider has given us what we need.
From the moment I met my friend I admired him and wanted to be part of what God was doing in his life. I didn’t feel sorry for him.
God’s gift to me was that he needed help, I could be part of what God was doing through him. His gift was that he needed the help, he could be part of what God was doing through me.
I’ve learned that this is where the gold really is. Depending on the body of Christ for your needs is an inestimable wealth.
This is where the rich become camels and the Kingdom the eye of the needle. For the most part, the poor are not tempted to think God needs their wealth. When they give their mite, they do it because they know it isn’t enough. When we do it, we are tempted to believe God needs it.