The forum’s facilitator asked the group to propose some of the dangers of being rich. Of course, there were some wise comments like, “Everyone give me all your money and I will tell you next month what danger it put me in,” and “whatever the dangers might be, I prefer them to the dangers of being poor.” Once the group got to work on the topic, their critical thinking skills really started to shine. They were pondering from the perspective of being Biblically aware, and it was an “iron sharpening iron” session. Later, I continued to reflect on the issue, looking at it from the angle of the exercise of power.
There is something about riches that makes folk want to hold onto their riches. It goes beyond just wanting to have enough financial security to provide for life’s necessities. Financial riches provides a resource which allows us to get people to do things they would not do unless we paid them a specified sum of money.
Most likely we are familiar with the saying, “for the right amount, John will sell you his grandmother.” Money talks. Money can change behavior. Money makes the world go ‘round. If you have riches, you have power. You don’t have to exercise that power, but you have it nonetheless.
Of course, being monetarily rich is not the only path to power. If you have control over resources that other people need, you have power. Let’s say that you don’t have much money, but you have the only water well in a parched land. That water well allows you to control the behavior of everyone that needs the water. The story of Joseph in Egypt, as found in Genesis, includes his enslaving the Egyptian population because he had the grain they need to fend off starvation. His story illustrates the point; he could “force” the people to do what they would never do otherwise because he had the resources they needed – food.
It is true that you can give people the money, or the resources, with no strings attached and hope they use it well. In that case, you have not used the money in a power play. Of course, you might not have used the money wisely either.
What I am explaining is just the tip of the topic. But, it is still enough to get us thinking that riches may permit us to do much good when used for the well being of others. At the same time, those same riches allow us to “buy” other people’s behavior that will give us some egotistical pleasure. When that happens we become guilty of abuse (a very dangerous position to be in when the abused people seek their revenge). Simultaneously we ourselves fall even more deeply into the pit of the dangerous habits and lifestyle of selfishness. Sadly, many never get out of the hole they dug.