After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
"Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward. Genesis 15:1
The face of hunger and wretched poverty lived right outside my front door as I grew up in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). The Congolese people are some of the poorest people materially on the face of this earth. I did nothing of my own merit to deserve the opportunities for the comfortable living that are mine here in the United States. I simply was born an American, in a country in which the dream of education and wealth is still attainable for those who will work hard.
I watched one day as a Congolese daddy carried his dead baby boy back to his village to bury him. The baby, probably two years old in age, weighed a mere six to eight pounds. The ravages of malnutrition and starvation had taken this beloved son away from his father. I wept as I anguished over the injustice between my father's ability to provide nourishing food for his family and this father's inability to do the same for his. From the sobs shaking his daddy's frame, I knew this baby was going to be desperately missed. The sting of death is acute and real in any family, regardless of socioeconomic factors.
So what is true wealth? The psalmist writes these words, "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you." (Psalm 89:14) I firmly believe that the Lord cannot lie to me, but if I use material wealth as my standard of judgment over the plight of third world citizens, these words would wring hollow in my ears. Material wealth cannot be true wealth.
I have citizenship in the wealthiest nation on the earth where the face of malnutrition is rarely apparent. Instead, the face of spiritual poverty is all around me. The pursuit of materialism has left its devastating mark here in fractured families, depression, suicide, school shootings, and a generation who does not know its Christian heritage. My precious Congolese brothers and sisters have nothing materially, but have everything of importance. They are some of the most grateful, joy-filled human beings I have ever encountered, despite their desperate poverty, because they know that their contentment has nothing to do with the size of a bank account.
They have found the secret to true wealth-the secret that eludes so many here in the United States. Their very great reward is their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Their shield from the cruelty of this world is God Himself. They do not have to wrestle with the temptation of believing the lie that their security is found in a company, a doctor, or a stock portfolio. They know, as Abraham did, not to be afraid because their impenetrable shield is the eternal One who is their true reward and source of wealth. From that perspective, aren't they far wealthier than I may ever be?
Lord Jesus, teach me that true wealth lies solely in my relationship to you. Teach me that godliness with contentment is great gain; may You be my Shield, my very great Reward in this life.