By Peter K. Johnson
God allows some Christians to possess riches. Not to pile up things
and expensive toys for selfish enjoyment, but to advance His kingdom.
Three businessmen reveal what its really like possessing
millions of dollars. They prefer to remain anonymous and are identified
here as "Mike," "Don" and "Ron." From
different areas of the country, they have built fortunes in real
estate, banking, construction, ranching, computer software, sports
and auto body shops. One saw a modest investment zoom to a $65-million
business. Serving the Lord is foremost for each of them.
Riches didnt just fall from heaven on a silver platter. They
work hard, take calculated risks and invest wisely.
"The Lord gifted me with a gut feeling for business opportunities,"
says Mike, a real estate investor. Dirt-poor as a child, he was
blessed with a prayer-warrior mother who taught him to pray for
wisdom. "We rode to church in a car with two broken windows
covered with an army blanket," he recalls.
All three men follow biblical principles and pray for guidance
in their business decisions.
Don heeds James 1:5: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should
ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and
it will be given to him" (NIV). He also taps into the Holy
Spirits convicting power. "Many times I passed up profits
that would not be ethical," he says. "Its not about
money; its about serving the Lord."
Ron landed in an unfamiliar industry and prospered. "I had
nothing to do with it," he says. "God gave me strength
and wisdom to handle growing responsibilities. Every decision I
make has the Lords input."
Don admits his need of divine guidance all the time. When tough
situations pop up, he sits at his desk, crying out for wisdom. "On
my own I cant make it," he says.
Money doesnt spell happiness. "It can cover up unhappiness,"
"Theres never enough money for people driven by that,"
Mike believes. First Timothy 6:10 warns: "For the love of money
is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have
wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
Wealthy Christians must also guard against the crafty nuances of
greed, like buying a bigger car or a trophy home for image sake,
or forgetting that God owns everything. Pride creeps in too. But
the Bible warns in Romans 12:16: "Do not be proud, but be willing
to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited."
Mike takes short-term mission trips to third-world countries as
a way of keeping priorities straight. "It reminds me where
I came from," he says. He also encourages others to start their
own businesses. "I like to help people," he says.
Having a lot of money makes life easier in terms of softening the
hassles of rent, car and mortgage payments, college tuition, adequate
retirement savings, medical bills and major appliance breakdowns.
Yet in other ways its a burden. Meeting payrolls, satisfying
customers, and accountability to bankers and investors are everyday
stress-builders. Economic downturns, stock market losses, layoffs,
competitive threats, rampant technology changes, inflation, floods
and tornadoes, the challenges of e-commerce and seesawing interest
rates will humble the most able entrepreneurs. Every successful
business will face tough times. Uncertainty rules in the marketplace.
Todays hot product may bomb tomorrow. Its not all fun
Stewardship of Gods blessings is another major challenge
for wealthy Christians. Knowing when and how much to give requires
wisdom and prayer. If you have $2 million to give, is it wiser to
give it all away at once, or donate $200,000 annually and invest
the principle for the long term, ultimately giving more? Do you
lavish the local church with offerings or give to other ministries
that may be needier? And how about handling the steady stream of
pleas from worthy causes?
Don feels a deep responsibility for his wealth, recognizing the
many legitimate needs. "Am I being a good steward?" he
questions. "Everything I have is borrowed. God owns it all.
The only thing that is mine is my soul."
Ron enjoys giving to ministries and needy people. "God speaks
to me in a minute," he says. It could be $1,000 or $10,000
and Ron responds. His wife also confirms how much to give.
He and his wife share their possessions and keep an open house.
"Its a building," he says. "Its stuff.
If you care so much about it that you cant share it, dont
Living in the spotlight is another challenge for prosperous Christians.
"People watch you," Don says. "If you do anything
hypocritical, theyll pounce all over you." Scripture
mandates honesty and integrity. Nothing ruins a Christian businessmans
testimony faster than a shady deal. Proverbs 10:9 gives advice:
"The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked
paths will be found out."
Ron quit a lucrative business because of cutthroat practices. "I
decided not to play those games," he says.
These men walk a fine line, balancing business, family and church
responsibilities. "Its a challenge for any successful
business person," Don says. "You get caught up in ambition.
I need to be on my knees every day."
Working long hours takes a toll on families. Mike has gone so far
as to lease a plane to return home for his daughters ballgame.
Ministry is still the No. 1 priority for these men, who yearn to
influence others for Christ in the marketplace. Opportunities abound
to reach the unchurched.
Don keeps a Bible on his office desk and begins meetings with prayer.
He invites a Bible school choir to sing at his company Christmas
party every year. Running his own businesses gives him freedom to
witness to employees, customers and vendors. "All of life is
ministry," he says. "Living for God is in every aspect
of our lives." He believes that too many Christians segregate
their church lives from the workplace. He claims that the highlight
of his career is seeing other businessmen accept Jesus as Savior.
"Its better than making a million dollars."
Owning a successful business and being in an influential position
are challenges for Christians. It doesnt mean they are more
spiritual or have more faith than other Christians do, or that God
is showing them favoritism. Remember the Lord didnt have a
place to call His own. He became poor for us. "Foxes have holes
and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place
to lay his head," He said (Matthew 8:20).
Possessing wealth is a blessing that demands responsibility. It
comes with the territory.
We are all admonished not to store up treasures on earth. We cant
serve both God and money. Our only lasting treasure is eternal life
with Jesus in heaven. The Lord tells us: "Store up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where
thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there
your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:20,21).
Peter K. Johnson lives in Milltown, N.J. He
attends the Assembly of God in Metuchen (Donald McFarren, pastor).