Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Creating Real Wealth that Spreads

Question: If, as the Bible states, God gives the ability to create wealth, what about those who do not receive the ability or those who do not desire wealth at all?

Answer: The question involves two kinds of people: those who (whether they are aware of divine principles or not) have desire (noble or otherwise) for wealth and those who have no regard (noble or otherwise) at all for wealth. In between are people who either swing from one extreme to another and countless other people who simply struggle through life without much concern for principles regarding personal financial management.

The above Q&A lays down the basic problem that besets many people whether rich or poor. Wealth, in the end, refers not merely to material possession but the possession of the ability to "create wealth" for the benefit of as many people as possible. It also suggests possession of moral virtues required for wise stewardship of earthly goods. For there are those born into wealth who do not have the least concern for the needs of the working class or the poor in general. Yes, they are wealthy but they do not have the kind of wealth that truly benefits people and society as a life-supporting-structure. These people who do nothing but make money out of their money only to spend it on their own pleasures do not serve society's future but in fact are obstacles to the distribution of true wealth.

God blesses those whom He wishes to use to bless His people. For instance, when God called Joseph to become the right-hand man of Pharaoh in Egypt, it was not to make Joseph or Pharaoh rich (although the latter was already rich). Neither was it to make Joseph rich. The main object was to save two nations in a time of natural calamity. Joseph served his role as manager of material wealth he did not own nor had any inordinate desire for. His moral training before he was given that role came in the most painful way: rejection from his brothers and imprisonment. With unselfishness, justice and competence, he ruled in Egypt and made a legendary dramatic and moral story.

God, in essence, gave Joseph that ability to create wealth. Whereas there would have been nothing left (not even life) during a seven-year drought, He used Joseph to create prosperity even through times of need. The ants know this economic art by nature but many of us have no real training for preparing for the future. It does not take too much faith or too much spiritual maturity to save something for future needs but less than 10% of our population practices saving money. Saving, as a matter of fact, involves the simplest form of creating wealth at least for the immediate future, something that God magnifies in many parables and proverbs in the Bible.

But the question still remains: How can one save if one does not have money at all or money to spare? Creating wealth presumes the ability to make money out of what we have. (Nobody can make money out of nothing -- only God can.) And yet we do have so much in us that we can use to create wealth. What are they? Let us enumerate them:

Our God-Given Human Resources

1. Artistic Talent

Visual and performing artists have talents that allow them to attract people who are willing to pay to watch their work or hear their performance. The production of movies, musicales, art publications and other related things prove beyond doubt the amount of wealth that artistic talent has generated and continues to generate. This simply means that God has given certain people talents that serve economic, cultural and spiritual purposes in human life. Imagine how boring life would be without music. Still, so much of what we might call talent seems overrated due to opportunists who use commercialism to create wealth for themselves -- the same attitude of greed that enslaves those who misuse riches.

2. Business Acumen (e.g., Investors/Entrepreneurs)

The “children of this world” are said to be “wiser than the children of God”. That is, in the management of money. One can only serve one master. For in the end he who wants to serve Mammon will have to sidestep so many of heaven's decrees in order to make it in this material world. The wealthy pierce themselves with so much trouble, this has been proven over and over again.

But this does not mean that Christians cannot become good or successful businessmen. In fact the churches have progressed well into the present millennium because of the proliferation of believers who have the means to support the work of preaching the word. Hence, to a certain degree, God uses numerous wealthy believers to create the wealth necessary to sustain His work of propagating His message throughout the world. He is not out to make super-rich individuals who will carry the burden of financing His mission but countless people (including the poor) who share the burden of giving. Still, the effort is hampered by the divisions among believers. But that is another story altogether.

3. Employment/Self-employment

For many of us, employment serves as the source of our living. Those who have the wealth (the government included) pay for our time spent working achieving certain objectives. As fast-foods clerks, janitors, grocery baggers, drivers, architects, contractors, bank managers or presidents, people derive income from employment. God has created the various structures of society to create the wealth that we think we do not have but in reality share in and enjoy every moment of our lives. Go to the public market and observe the seemingly chaotic atmosphere and you will realize that this daily orchestra provides any community the essential structure that sustains our physical existence. And when you do realize this, the cacophony turns into beautiful music to the ears.

In the final view, God is the only creator of wealth for without His wisdom nothing would have existed to provide for all that we all take so much for granted. Or sometimes those we so proudly claim to be of our own doing. For wealth can so easily delude us to become strong, powerful and proud that we forget where we got what we have. And the ordinary factory worker is no exception when it comes to this kind of deception. Aren't there people who spend their entire weekly pay on alcohol because they think they "own" what they earned? As we said, saving (and investing) creates future wealth but spending unwisely destroys our future.

The secret then to financial independence lies in understanding who and what creates wealth. Everything else follows from knowing how people in the past and the present created wealth that spreads and not wealth that burdens and eventually kills.

The Irony of Financial Independence

Ironically, it becomes obvious that there is no such thing as independence in finance. We can never think of making or having money without giving thought to others. The father earns a living not for himself alone but for the entire family. The businessperson makes profit not just for the family but for the community. The government imposes taxes not just for the present community but also for the future generations, ideally speaking.

Financial independence has a tendency to place in people's mind the idea of "my money I can spend freely in any way I want". This is nothing but selfishness. This is the curse of consumerism. A person saves enough to buy a fancy car. Or a pair of Ferragamo shoes. What for? Durability? Higher resale value? Yes, in certain instances, the more expensive a thing is, the more value in terms of quality compared to cheaper goods. But in most cases it is merely pride and vanity. Somehow this speaks of self-oriented wealth both for those who create overpriced products and those who buy them.

What about the man who sold his BMW so he can help build low-cost houses for the homeless? Yes, that is charity. An exceptional act of personal sacrifice. Still it emphasizes the financial dependence of others upon those who have. For we cannot have total independence without considering the dependence of those who suffer from want. And there are so many of them out there.

Think of wealth then as a tool or as a means for creating more wealth in terms of completed lives. Lives that would have no existence if not for the food, clothing and dwelling others may share with them.

Some nations do not have the kinds of problems the Philippines has in terms of poverty. In fact, the reason many leave these islands is because wealth is more easily accessible in some countries. More accessible indeed! Why? Because their governments know how to spread the wealth around in terms of free education, health insurance, efficient services, excellent tax management and other social benefits. Not that there are no greedy people in other countries. It is that more greedy people manage our national wealth than in most countries. No wonder that others are well-off and we remain poor.


For a nation to be truly free politically, culturally and economically, God must lead the way in creating wealth that spreads. The only way this can be done is to raise up more and more people who are willing to part with their wealth and not just hoard it. That is, people who invest in future wealth directly in the lives of others and not invest in their own selfish and wasteful desires.

This question remains: What shall it profit a person if he/she should GAIN the whole world and lose his/her own soul?

(Photo above: Bayanihan or communality originated from the Filipino practice of neighbors literally carrying a bamboo house to another location.)