Lifestyles of the rich and famous

September 15, 2010

What is going on? The rich and powerful seem to sail through life without a problem. Even when they die, they don’t seem to suffer! They have more than their hearts could ever wish for, second and third homes, exotic vacations, cars I could only dream about, unlimited cash. And then, here I am, struggling to make ends meet. Plagued with doubts and fears. Stumbling and bumbling along, trying to keep my heart and my hands clean. And, for what?
That is how Asaph described his struggle in the 73rd Psalm, and I daresay it is the inner monologue of many of us today. Why do we who love the Creator and aim to serve him suffer, while the one who makes fun of him seems to have no worries? The rich and powerful often mock God, even questioning his intelligence by saying things like, “If there even is a God, what does he know, and what can he do to me?” Yet, he prospers. Everything he does seems to turn to gold. His estate grows right along with his pride and arrogance. He sees what he wants and takes it, without regard for a moral compass. He scoffs at those who even mention a moral compass.
I am reminded of Leona Helmsley, a billionaire New Yorker who died in 2007. Dubbed the “Queen of Mean” by the media, Helmsley earned the title with her extravagant greed that swallowed up the weak and the poor. Though she owned the Empire State Building and a string of hotels, her greed was not satisfied. When her son unexpectedly died at age 40, she sued and won the lion’s share of his estate, $149,000, leaving his four children with $432 each and his widow, $2,171.
Asaph saw the Helmsleys of his day growing fatter and fatter, and, as he said, “my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.” He found himself coveting what the rich enjoyed. It consumed his thoughts. Here’s a warning to all of us. When your mind is in neutral, not engaged with something particular, what topic is the default mode for you? For many, it is wealth, possessions, stuff. Not God. Not his glory nor his Word.
What changed Asaph’s mind and got his feet off the edge of the cliff and back on the road? He went to church. He wrote, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.” He saw that though the rich and famous who reject God may seem to prosper now, their end is destruction. Everything they hold onto, and that really holds onto them, will be torn from their hands as they walk through the portal of death. They scoff now at Jim Elliot’s famous journal entry: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” But on that final day, they will scoff no longer.
Asaph came around to the place where we who follow Christ must all come. He was reminded of God’s sovereign grace and mercy toward those who believe and repented of his discontentment and covetousness. He said to God, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. (You are) the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
The lifestyles of the rich and famous are not always what they appear. May we all have that “Asaph-experience” that changes our perspective and keeps our feet from stumbling.