A recent article from Marketwatch.com offered insight into the wealthiest men in the world. According to the recent Forbes list of the world’s richest men, it was no surprise to see Microsoft founder Bill Gates coming in first with a staggering $86 billion. Warren Buffet came it at $76 million, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at $50 billion, and President Donald Trump weighing in, too, but only with a paltry $3.7 million.
What the article also mentioned was that there may be others who are worth more than even Mr. Gates but who fail to make the list. This is because of how they got their wealth and because their total worth may not be properly documented or accounted for. The primary example is President Putin of Russia.
Bill Browder, a former fund manager in Russia, stated the following to CNN. “I believe that Putin is worth $200 billion. After 14 years in power of Russia, and the amount of money that the country has made, and the amount of money that hasn’t been spent on schools and roads and hospitals and so on, all that money is in property, bank, Swiss bank accounts, shares, hedge funds, managed for Putin and his cronies.”
Also, John Oliver, on HBO’s Last Week Tonight program, stated that nothing about Putin’s finances adds up. He said that the list of the leader’s extravagances aren’t possible on his reported $100,000 salary. These include 58 planes and helicopters, 20 palaces and country retreats, and a billion-dollar home somewhere on the Black Sea.
It is one thing for someone to become wealthy beyond the imagination through honest endeavors and hard work, but it is another thing altogether to do it at the expense of others and through the suffering of those that are under your care. And that kind of greed is due to the influence of human sin!
The Bible talks at length about the spiritual dangers that accompany the out of control pursuit of worldly riches. No two passages say it better than James 4 and Matthew 6. James spells out a stern warning to those who place their priorities on material goods. He begins in verse 13, “Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.' But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil."
And in Chapter 5, James continues. “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.”
Then Jesus addressed the subject directing His words at those whose priorities are mainly materialistic. In Matthew 6, He declared, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Then in Verse 24, He added, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” That could not have been made much more clear!
Most of us cannot even begin to grasp what it is like to be worth 86 billion dollars. Many in the world today cannot even fathom an amount like $8,600 for that matter. And, yes, having massive sums of money can make life much easier and fun on many levels – for now! But eventually the very poor and the outrageously rich will all face the same thing at life’s end. The playing field will be fully leveled when each stands before his or her Creator. But none will be asked how much they owned or amassed in this life. That will be more irrelevant in that moment then we can can ever imagine. What will be asked instead is how rich we have been in faith. And not just any faith. Each one must offer up what, if anything, their personal faith in Jesus Christ was worth and how they lived in the light of that. Riches will take on a whole new meaning immediately and forever more!
After His warning about keeping material possessions in their proper perspective, the Lord laid out how to do just that in Matt. 6:31-33. He stated simply what not to do along with what to do. "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
This life is about laying up permanent treasure now for the next life. And that can only occur when the Author of all life comes first and foremost!