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December 31, 1992

Four Classes of Wealth

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Now listen, you rich people . . . JAMES 5:1
When it comes to economic status, we tend to put people into two categories: the haves and the have-nots. But if we examine the Scriptures, we can actually find four categories of people when it comes to monetary and spiritual wealth.
The first category includes people who are poor without and poor within. They have none of the material goods this world has to offer, and they also are spiritually and morally bankrupt.
The second group includes people who are rich without and rich within. Abraham, Joseph, and Lydia are examples from this category—they had a great deal of monetary wealth, and they also were rich spiritually.
Third are those who are poor without and rich within. This includes people such as Mary and Joseph (Jesus’ earthly parents) and the widow in Mark 12:42 who was commended by Jesus because she gave everything she had to the Temple treasury.
The fourth category includes people who are rich without and poor within. It is this group that James addresses in James 5. These people have large bank accounts and sizable stock portfolios, but they lack the moral and spiritual foundation that would allow them to handle their wealth properly. Rather than use their wealth to help those less fortunate and provide well-paying jobs for their employees, they use it to fund their luxurious lifestyles.
It’s sometimes tempting to judge people based on their material wealth. In our minds, we elevate the people who belong to the country club and minimize the ones who are part of the “working class.” But as these four categories show, some of the people who appear to be the wealthiest actually possess nothing of eternal value, and some of those who appear to be destitute actually possess great eternal wealth.
How do you evaluate the wealth of the people around you? Do you filter it through an eternal lens, or do you look at it from a strictly earthly perspective?

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