There is an arrogance that comes with wealth. Not every wealthy person displays arrogance, though. We have been the beneficiaries on a couple of occasions when wealthy people have helped us and I know a few other wealthy people who don’t show that arrogance, but it’s easy to become arrogant when you have a better financial situation than someone else. Perhaps that’s why Americans have a bad reputation in some areas of the world. We often act as though we have a special platform to make our points heard because we have more money than others. We act as if people should stop what they’re doing so that they can listen to us. In a world where wealth is considered to be an earned blessing from God, it’s easy to see how that happens.
In ancient days, money covered a lot of sin. After all, God wouldn’t be blessing you with a lot of money if you were evil. Today we look at people with financial wealth and hang on their every word, or watch and imitate everything they do. Dare to criticize a preacher because of ostentatious wealth and you are shut down by words like, “Well, look how God is blessing him!” and the implied follow-up of “And if He isn’t blessing you that way, who are you to say anything?” Ephraim, the Norther Kingdom, had that same problem. “Ephraim boasts, ‘I am very rich; I have become wealthy. With all my wealth they will not find in me any iniquity or sin.’ … But Ephraim has aroused his bitter anger; his Lord will leave on him the guilt of his bloodshed and will repay him for his contempt.” (Hosea 12:8,14)
It’s so easy to be intimidated by people who have great financial wealth. We keep “score” in life by comparing bank accounts and possessions. Here in America, most of us are not leading the score. We fall way behind in the score and prestige department. If we were to expand the “league” and include the rest of the world in our comparisons, we would be in the top 1%. So we look at the world, as Northern Israel did, and boast that our wealth makes us a better country. We obviously can’t have sin here, because…God’s blessing us so much. In this arrogance we abuse others as if it is a God-given right. We look down on the poor and heap insults upon them; we seek to impose our personal will on people in other countries and we use the military might of the United States to coerce other countries into doing things our way. To quote the “new” golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules – and we have the gold. Then we wonder why some people around the world don’t like us.
The key to recovery from this “wealth makes right” attitude that is so easy to adopt is to recognize that God is still in control. Ephraim forgot that truth and lived as if they didn’t need God. When we approach life with humility, we gain the greatest wealth of all: a relationship with God. When wealth brings arrogance we often feel like we need to run the world. When we disabuse ourselves of that notion, we can breathe easier every day. Recognize the worth of each person you meet. Listen to them. Hear their story and learn how God works every day in all people. Realize the spiritual power God has given to all people, and share your life story with them. Let’s draw others into a deeper commitment to their relationship with God by learning from and teaching each other. When we do that, our relationship with God will grow stronger too.
Lord, heal me of my arrogance and restore a right relationship with me through Your grace. Remind me that everyone I meet is someone that You have created, You continue to love, and that You want to have a relationship with. Let my words and actions draw them to You.