The State of the Union and the Myth of the Evil Rich
During a time in which a billionaire is the President of the United States and a Billionaire is the governor of the State I live in, the belief that rich people are evil seems to be center stage. I’m quite perplexed by this thought pattern. I live in a country where we have always been taught that you can go out and do anything and attain “The American Dream.” And, you know what? I bought it! Hook, Line, and Sinker. I believed it. At the core of my being, I held true that anyone could go out and make a success of themselves. Last night, I told my sons the only way they could stay up later than their bedtime was to watch the State of the Union address. I didn’t consider one of my sons would hear something so critical for his future and respond to it. Last night our President said the words,
“This, in fact, is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream. So to every citizen watching at home tonight—no matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your time. If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve absolutely anything” (President Trump, 2018).
Without delay, my seven year old said “That’s right Dad! We can do anything if we believe it, right”? I, of course said “Yes, Son. Anything!”
But, why do we demonize the people that went out and believed they could do anything and became “rich” along the way? After all, living in America, no matter who is reading this, you are probably considered to be rich compared to the rest of the world. Are people in Africa demonizing us in the United States because we became prosperous? Maybe, but the stories I read are of people who want to attain what we have.
Let’s say for a moment, you are correct. And, let’s say you are in the company of people who attained their wealth in an unscrupulous manner. Or, once they attained their wealth they truly became “bad” people. To support the ideology of many, they might point to the scripture in Matthew 19:24 “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus says this after the rich young ruler walked away from Jesus’ request to give his possessions to the poor. While many are quick to point to this scripture to win their argument, there is a contrasting story to be found in Luke. The story is as follows:
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, He has gone to be the guest of a sinner. But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
After the story makes sure to let you know that Zacchaeus is wealthy, you are told that he wanted to see Jesus. Zacchaeus was a man who wanted to see Jesus so badly that he climbed a tree just to get a better view. So, we find a rich man who is looking for Jesus. A rich man who is intrigued by what he has heard. But, he wasn’t just intrigued by Jesus’ words. He actually went and did what Jesus said. Maybe somewhere along the way Zacchaeus heard the story of Jesus talking to the rich young ruler and decided to put Jesus’ words into action. Maybe Jesus told him a story while at his house. Maybe Zacchaeus saw Jesus and his disciples had something money couldn’t buy. All we truly know is that after spending time with Jesus, Zacchaeus was changed.
Do you think there just isn’t bringing back some rich people? Do you believe that God doesn’t want to reach them? After seeing what Zacchaeus did, Jesus said “I must stay at your house.” Are you trying to get a closer look of Jesus? Are you pursuing him with all your heart? Are you pursuing him more than the American Dream? After spending time with Jesus, Zacchaeus wanted to right his wrongs. Zacchaeus was willing to give half of everything away in addition to paying back those he cheated. Is God calling you to right some wrongs in your life? Do you need to give away something? How great would it be for you to answer that desire in your heart and have Jesus be your guest? I hope you are trying to see him, so that you can be changed in whatever area of your heart needs to change.
It might be easy for us to say “There’s no hope for that guy.” But, God isn’t looking for you to point out what was wrong with the rich young ruler. He wants us to see Zacchaeus’ heart and follow his example. We are so quick to condemn the rich. We are quick to say things like “the fat cat oligarchs don’t care about anyone but themselves.” How quick are we to notice that many rich people aren’t at all like that!!! That’s a point I haven’t mentioned, but most of the rich people I’m surrounded by are not like that one bit! In an age where it’s easy to quickly point the finger, do we see ourselves in the stories of the rich young ruler and Zacchaeus? When we notice someone who is “rich” and doesn’t act the way we believe he should act, how quick are we to pray for him? One of the last things my son said to me as he fell asleep on my shoulder watching the State of the Union was “We need to pray for our President, right Dad”? “Yes, Son. We always need to pray for him.” There are many people who desperately need our prayers, not just our President. There are many sincere, Christ following, rich people with enormous responsibility that need our prayers. How will we model Zacchaeus’ example in our own lives?