On Monday morning, a letter arrived in the post from our previous mortgage lender; having moved house two weeks ago, we expected the letter to be little more than a courteous ‘thanks for the insane amount of interest you have paid us over recent years, we’re sorry to lose your hard earned buck!’ My wife drew my attention to a comment at the end of the letter: “You have overpaid on the amount owed, which we will imminently refund to your account.”
Amazing, I thought. Perhaps this will mean we can avoid a trip to a certain Swedish furniture store and invest in some classier items – sorry if you’re a fan of meatballs. The letter didn’t specify the amount, and so I duly logged on to my online banking account to investigate. “It will probably only be a tenner,” my wife cynically remarked. “I think it could be as much as £1,000,” I more optimistically conjectured.
When a figure of £1.53 appeared in my statement, we grabbed our coats and headed to Ikea.
I’d just returned from a weekend in The Hague where I visited the Peace Palace – home to the International Court of Justice and Court of Arbitration. Visitors are welcomed with an introduction video, which made reference to a chap called Andrew Carnegie. He donated $1.5 million – in 1913 that was serious money – towards its construction. Carnegie grew up in poverty, but through some incredible hard graft and being in the right place at the right time during the industrial revolution, made a fortune through the steel industry. The video included this quote from Carnegie: “The man who dies rich dies disgraced.”
He committed himself to philanthropic works, achieving many noble things with his wealth as a consequence. But that statement got me thinking: what does it mean to die rich? It’s probably a stupid question as Carnegie was of course referring to money, but dying rich is not such an inaccessible or shameful thing if we consider a biblical definition of the word. Here’s how Paul saw it:
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9
Or take a moment to read Ephesians 1, where Paul speaks of the grace – meaning charisma or gift, riches and inheritance promised to all who have been chosen “in him before the foundation of the world”. In short, to die ‘in Christ’ is to die rich, not in disgrace, but to the glory of God.
Last Friday, the day before I flew out to the Netherlands, I was called to the hospital by a lady in the church whose mother had just died. In the eyes of the world, this dear woman had very little material wealth, but as her hope was in the glorious riches of Christ, her bodily death enabled her to possess an inheritance beyond comprehension. She died very rich indeed.
In the week of the publication of the Forbes rich list, I’d like to encourage you to reflect on the infinite worth of having your name found in God’s ‘rich list’ – the Lamb’s book of life – for there is no treasure greater than “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Philippians 3:8.