Do Not Let Riches or Poverty Be Your Ruin
RICHES can result in hurt to the rich, even as poverty can be harmful to the poor. An ancient inspired proverb, as true today as it was when written, well expresses this fact: “The valuable things of a rich man are his strong town. The ruin of the lowly ones is their poverty.”—Prov. 10:15.
But if the rich man’s valuable things are a strong town, how does this result in hurt to him? It is undeniable that the rich tend to view their riches as a protection, like a wall around a town. And it is understandable why they might. For riches generally mean to them good food, fine homes and other material benefits. Money does unquestionably have certain value, even as the Bible says: “Money is for a protection.”—Eccl. 7:12.
But does wealth make one immune to cancer, heart disease and other calamities? Can it buy happiness—a secure marriage, or well-behaved, respectful children? On the contrary, a person may actually lose his health and damage his family ties because he tries too hard to be in an upper-income bracket. It is just as another inspired proverb explains: “The valuable things of the rich are his strong town, and they are like a protective wall in his imagination.”—Prov. 18:11.
HOW RICHES CAN LEAD TO RUIN
Yes, the exaggerated importance that a rich person may attach to his material wealth is simply a figment of his imagination. Actually, riches can contribute to one’s ruin. Have you noted, for example, that the wealthy are commonly the target of criminals? Often reports are heard of their being kidnapped, held for ransom, and sometimes murdered. Or this occurs to loved ones of theirs, ruining the family circle.
Riches also contribute to calamity in other ways. It has become common for the children of the wealthy to reject their parents’ materialistic way of life. They may even reject their parents, resulting in untold family sorrow.
But more serious yet is the effect that riches can have upon a person’s relationship with God. While perhaps not rejecting belief in God, they tend to relegate Him to a secondary place in their lives. Really, they trust in themselves more than they trust in God. Such an attitude leads to eventual ruin, even as Jesus Christ showed in his illustration about the rich man who was overly occupied with satisfying his own desires.—Luke 12:16-21; Prov. 11:28.
Yet riches may not necessarily cause a person to become proud and to trust only in himself. A person with riches may think seriously about God and the need for God’s will to be done on this earth. Perhaps you do that. When Jehovah’s witnesses call to talk to you about God’s kingdom, you listen. You may take Bible literature and offer to contribute generously for it. But is that what is required to please God?
A true-life experience helps us to understand. A rich man approached Jesus and asked what was required of him “in order to get everlasting life.” This man already obeyed God’s basic laws, but when Jesus explained that to please God and gain eternal life he must cease making material possessions his chief concern and, instead, become Jesus’ disciple and copy his example of sharing spiritual things with others, the rich man sadly walked away. Why?—Matt. 19:16-22.
The problem is identified in an illustration that Jesus used about those who hear “the word of the kingdom.” Of a certain type of person mentioned in that illustration, Jesus explained: “The anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches choke the word.” (Matt. 13:22) Material abundance often has that effect. The rich are generally so concerned with their own material interests that they do not give “the word of the kingdom” the attention it deserves. Is that true of you?
If you really want to please God, now is the time to make a change. Do not allow entanglements of social and commercial interests to strangle you spiritually. If need be, make radical adjustments so you can regularly study God’s Word. Jehovah’s witnesses will gladly help you, free of charge. Become one of Christ’s disciples, really copying his example, and thus lay hold on God’s gift of “everlasting life.”
DO NOT LET POVERTY BE YOUR RUIN
On the other hand, the poor must also be on guard, for poverty can likewise contribute to their ruin. They may profess to believe in God, and to practice the true religion, but poverty can depress their spirit and twist their thinking. A wise man of long ago recognized that this could happen, and so prayed: ‘May I not come to poverty and actually steal and assail the name of my God.’—Prov. 30:9.
In dire need, a person could be tempted to steal. In many instances today the poor person sees many around him living in abundance and he may be resentful over the inequities. Yet such circumstances are not justification for stealing, under either the laws of God or those of man.
If one does yield to temptation and stoops to stealing or similar dishonesty, what are the consequences? He may end up in prison, which can mean disgrace both to the person and to his family. Further, his conscience may torment him, or, even worse, it may be seared and he may become a habitual wrongdoer. If corrective steps are not taken, the result will be God’s disapproval and one’s losing out on the prospect of everlasting life in God’s righteous new order, now near.
A person needs to appreciate that it is not what he owns that makes him a true success. Rather, it is his right standing with Jehovah God. Why so? Because it is only God who can and will establish a righteous government under which there will be no inequities, with some being favored over others. The certain promise of God’s Word the Bible is that all who meet God’s requirements to live then will enjoy an abundance of the fine produce of the earth.—Isa. 25:6-9; Rev. 21:3, 4.
In the meantime, while this system’s inequities are permitted to exist, whether one is rich or poor does not influence one’s standing with God. It is as the inspired proverb says: “The rich one and the one of little means have met each other. The Maker of them all is Jehovah.” (Prov. 22:2) Yes, all stand before the true God, Jehovah, on the basis of what they are, not what they own.
That is also how those who truly worship Jehovah God view one another. They do not judge others by their economic or social standing, but accept them for what they are as persons. Would you like to associate with people who deal with one another in that way? You can find them at the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses.