Understanding the spiritual challenges of crazy rich Asians
Both the poor and the rich face many temptations but the super wealthy face their own unique set of challenges, particularly when they unintentionally allow their wealth to define their identity and steer their lives. Jesus proclaimed that it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Indeed, we can build empires and names that last generations and yet lose our souls permanently.
Mark 8:36 ESV For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
Spiritual challenges of crazy rich Asians
Many of Asia’s super wealthy began as hard-working entrepreneurs from humble backgrounds. Driven by a desire to leave a lasting legacy, many of these patriarchs run both their companies and families according to their personal ambitions and values. Family members who don’t follow suit can be seen as “black sheep”. There is great pressure in super wealthy families to mold future generations after their patriarch, rather than after Jesus Christ.
Galatians 2:20 ESV I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Family and business tend to become intermingled in the process, with one or two children groomed into family executives. Taken to the extreme, they are required to be in control of and stay connected to the family business at all times, and even take different modes of transport when the family travels together, in order to reduce “key man risks”. It seems that family obligations, rather than God, dictate what they do. In such cases, it can be hard to determine what are the “good works which God prepared beforehand” for us.
Ephesians 2:10 ESV For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Even if the super-rich don’t seek media attention, their names will be listed amongst the “who’s who”, simply because of financial figures they represent. There are ungodly comparisons of homes, appearance, dress sense, jewelry and personal assets that drive many of the super-rich to feel compelled to “live the good life” and show off or hoard their wealth. Because of the constant comparisons, the wealthy are not easily satisfied nor content. Their focus is turned to their peer groups and worldly pleasures, rather than Jesus Christ and God’s will.
1 Samuel 16:7 ESV … “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Luke 12:15 ESV And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
The world watches and expects the super wealthy to set the standard in luxury and fine taste. Those who don’t are judged unkindly. They are obligated to watch what they wear, do, and say in public. There is no privacy for the extended family or their spouses either. They are the targets for business clubs, charities, luxury brands, financial advisors, the media, and even political parties. Many relationships are based on money, power and influence, rather than on love and compassion. Hence, the rich can end up doing many worldly things for the sake of their family’s name, instead of Jesus’ name.
Galatians 6:14 NIV May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Lessons from the man with a net worth of over $2 trillion
One crazy-rich person with similar spiritual struggles in the Bible is King Solomon. In modern-day terms, Solomon’s wealth would have been worth over 2 trillion dollars today. He lived an extremely opulent and indulgent lifestyle, rewarding himself with all sorts of pleasures; including numerous houses, parks, vineyards, silver and gold, livestock, servants, entertainers, and even 700 wives and 300 concubines. He was world-renowned for his wealth and wisdom, and was consulted by kings and queens from faraway countries. Solomon was certainly in a league of his own amongst the super-rich and famous.
Ecclesiastes 2:10 ESV And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.
Yet King Solomon said that in spite of all his fame, wealth, possessions and women, he did not find real contentment or meaning after all his toil. In Ecclesiastes 2:20-25, Solomon despaired that all his wealth and hard work would only be passed on for someone else to enjoy. He noted that those who love wealth will keep toiling. They are unable to find restful sleep. Their work becomes a vexation. He described all this as “chasing the wind.”
After 12 long chapters of despairing in the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon finally concluded that there is nothing better than to fear God and keep His commandments so that we may enjoy true prosperity – the security of God’s peace, providence, protection, health, and sound sleep. Chasing anything else, according to King Solomon, is pure “vanity”. We waste our precious time and talents, are denied sound rest, and become physically, mentally and spiritually worn out – and yet cannot guarantee that our legacies, business empires and especially our souls will last forever.
Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 ESV Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
God’s call for the super wealthy
The Bible calls us not to pride ourselves in our earthly achievements or luxuries, even if we are praised by people for doing well. Without God, we will just be like “beasts that perish.” We are reminded not to forget God, who is the One who gave us the power to gain our wealth in the first place.
Psalm 49:16-20 ESV Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him. For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed —and though you get praise when you do well for yourself— his soul will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never again see light. Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.
Deuteronomy 8:17-19 ESV Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth… And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
There are many questions we could certainly ask to ensure that we do not forget God.
1. Image idol: Do I value my reputation over Jesus’ reputation?
After being associated with worldly success and wealth, it can be hard for the super-rich to devote themselves to sharing the gospel, because the world would rather hear about their “success formula” for getting rich. Where we become distracted by worldly things and fail to follow God’s call to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that God has commanded”, the famously rich can enter heaven as utter bankrupts because they neglected to build heavenly treasures that they can enjoy for eternity.
Therefore, it is worth asking ourselves:
- How often do I testify of Jesus within my spheres of influence?
- Am I willing to be ridiculed for following and talking about Jesus?
- Do I represent Jesus well to my family, employees and business associates?
Matthew 6:19-21 ESV “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.
Matthew 28:18-20 ESV And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
2. Business idol: Do I serve my business interests more than God’s interests?
God will remember if we lived our lives on earth for Him or for ourselves. He created us for His glory, not our own. He calls us to be “rich in good works”, not just in assets.
Isaiah 43:6-7 ESV … bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
Therefore, it is worth asking ourselves:
- Am I known more for my wealth or the things I do for God’s glory?
- Do I consult God regularly for His will and guidance?
- Do I give to God’s work generously and cheerfully?
2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
3. Wealth idol: Do I serve my own wealth needs over the poor’s?
It is an honour to be blessed financially so that we can be generous benefactors of the poor and needy. God’s Word reminds us it is more blessed to give than to receive. The super-rich have many possessions, some of which they have only used once. God calls us to sell them and give the proceeds to the needy instead, so that we store up “a treasure in the heavens that does not fail.”
Acts 20:35 ESV In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Luke 12:33 ESV Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
Therefore, it is worth asking ourselves:
- Do I give a generous first-cut of my earnings to serve the needs of the poor?
- How much of my time do I spend getting to personally know the poor and needy?
- Do I use my influence to speak up against the oppression of the poor?
- What possessions or assets do I have that I don’t really need or use that I can sell and donate the proceeds to the poor?
Proverbs 19:17 ESV Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
Proverbs 14:31 ESV Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
4. Family idol: Do I bow to my family more than I bow to God?
Many of the super wealthy face great pressures to do things for their family name’s sake. They can be “yoked” to their earthly families more than to Jesus Christ. Following Jesus may mean that they must first reject their family’s hierarchical, autocratic or business rule, perhaps even appearing to outside observers as being ungrateful and incomprehensible.
Matthew 11:29 ESV Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Luke 14:26 ESV “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Therefore, it is worth asking ourselves:
- Am I willing to follow Jesus even if I am cut off from the family and the family trust fund?
- Do I gently and respectfully testify of God to my own family?
- Do I pray for my family’s salvation through Jesus?
Many of the super-rich will find it extremely hard to give up the comfort, status, power, influence and perceived security that their wealth brings. But we can take heart that Jesus said that “with God all things are possible.” As long as we take the first few steps to honour God in everything that we do, He will help to steer our hearts towards Him and eventually restore whatever we forsake on earth for the sake of following Him without reservation. God promises to never leave or forsake us when we put our faith in Him. He wants to show us the meaning of true and everlasting prosperity. Will we let Him?
Matthew 19:21-23,25-26 ESV Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
1 Peter 5:10 ESV And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Hebrews 13:5 ESV Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
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