THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: the real ‘rich list’

Rev David Clarke.
Rev David Clarke.

The ‘Sunday Times’ has once again published the ‘Rich List’ of Britain’s wealthiest individuals.

The front page of the popular broadsheet proclaimed that for the first-time ‘the self-made rich triumph over old money’.

Entrepreneurs have accumulated more of this world’s goods than those born with the proverbial ‘silver spoon’ in their mouths. The newspaper has also informed us of the wealthiest among the under-thirties, as well as those who earnings come from sporting success.

The figures are mind-blowing. Industrialists head the list, ahead of the 27-year-old Duke of Westminster who is worth a reputed £9.5 billion. Close on his heels are two entrepreneurs I had actually heard of. Sir James Dyson and Roman Abramovich, are both worth £9.333 billion pounds.

Among the young, Rory McIlroy is estimated to have assets worth £110 million, somewhat behind the singer Adele (worth £140 million). Another article in the same newspaper reads between the lines of sporting wealth. Not only is Alexis Sanchez of Manchester United paid £400,000 per week, he is also paid another £75,000 for every match where he actually starts, rather than merely warming the substitute’s bench.

All of this is rather unhealthy, leading to envy and sharp practice. While some may preach a ‘prosperity gospel’, the emphasis of the New Testament is on the dangers of wealth. Love of money, wrote Paul, is the root of all kinds of evil (Timothy), and Jesus, in one of his most famous parables, underlined how wealth can blind us to the really important things, especially our relationship with God, and the reality of death which takes us all from all that we have accumulated. The rich fool of Jesus’ story (Luke 12; 13-21 ), a man obsessed with his success, had forgotten about God and about death.

The writer Samuel Johnson once visited his friend, the great actor David Garrick. Surveying the splendour of his apartments, Johnson remarked, ‘Oh Davie, Davie, death must seem an awful thing to thee!’ Rich and poor alike leave all behind when the grim reaper calls.

In one of his novels Sir Walter Scott told of a Scottish laird who was walking on a beach, but found that he was about to be trapped by the inrushing tide. Spotting a local tramp, he offered the man all sorts of rewards if he was able to get him to safety. The shrewd old tramp recognised the inevitable, and said, ‘Sir, our fortunes will soon be equal.’

In preparation for that day, our wealth needs to be elsewhere. There is an imaginary story of a wealthy man who, on death, was appalled to find he had been allocated a squalid room in heaven. When he raised the issue, he was told, ‘That’s all we could manage with what you sent up!’ Through faith in Christ and unselfish living, we need to be ‘rich towards God’(Luke 12; 21)