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Vantage point

Rich and faithful

Jesus said it was difficult, but not impossible, "for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:25, NIV). Though most would find it difficult to be rich and serve Jesus fully at the same time, God has used a remnant of the faithful wealthy from New Testament times to the present.

Arthur and Lewis Tappan are two examples. Highly successful merchants in the 19th century, they loved the Lord more than their money. They aimed to inject Christ’s principles into the marketplace. So they put their money where their mouths were — selling goods at a low profit margin and treating their customers like kings. These principles resulted in immense wealth for the Tappans, which they faithfully turned to the Lord’s work.

But they went further. Not satisfied with the elitism of New York Protestantism, they crusaded for a classless society that would eliminate economic, social and racial distinctions. People rented pews in those days, leaving many of the less fortunate literally out in the cold church-wise. The Tappans helped start a Free Church movement that welcomed the poor, providing free seats to everyone.

The Tappans also crusaded to keep the Lord’s day holy, supporting merchants that closed their doors on Sundays, and they ran one of the first newspapers to give up revenue by refusing to run objectionable advertising.

The Tappans were instrumental in inviting evangelist Charles Finney to come to Rochester in 1830. The resulting revival saw an abundance of the wealthy make commitments to Christ. Lawyers, manufacturers and commercial tycoons were born again. At Rochester, Finney first gave the opportunity for people to respond immediately to the invitation by walking forward (a shocking "new measure" in that day). This act of humility — wealthy walking the aisles alongside the poor — helped bring the classes together. Under the influence of a fresh salvation experience — and the Tappans — many of these individuals turned their attention to benevolence, helping the less fortunate in the name of Jesus. A number of retailers demonstrated the genuineness of their commitment by throwing their liquor inventories into the Erie Canal, then turning their resources to support the temperance movement. Many of these individuals of substance actually signed a formal document repudiating selfish accumulation and recognizing the responsibility of stewardship they had been given.

The obedience of the prosperous saved was significant. These wealthy men and women turned their resources to eternal things, proving that, while difficult, it is not impossible for the affluent to serve the Lord. You will find current examples of this in this issue.

And let us also remember that, by the world’s standards, most of us in America are rich. We must all be faithful stewards.

— Ken Horn, managing editor

 

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