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A Rich Man Finds Joy and Peace in Poverty

A Rich man Who Lived in Poverty

"It is more blessed to give than to receive" Acts 20:35

Richard was a very wealthy man by our standard today in 2010. He was working in Wall Street as one of the insiders. He made millions of dollars after which he retired at the age of 45 years. He was married to Danielle, a very attractive woman in her early thirties. They had four children, three girls and one boy. At 45 years, he had a big mansion in California worth over five million dollars and another vacation home in Florida worth millions of dollars.

He had four expensive cars, a boat, a private jet and a personal pilot. His business investment away from Wall Street was over 50 million dollars. According to the secular world’s standard Richard was very rich and he should be very happy. He was brought up in a Christian home, but he since left the church after he started making a lot of money in Wall Street. However, Richard had a problem. Despite all his wealth, Richard started to suffer from depression. He felt very empty. He kept the depression from his wife for a while.

Richard went to his doctor for help over his depression. His doctor told him that by leaving Wall Street, he left his excitements and that was the cause of his depression. So, his doctor gave him some antidepressants. A year after Richard had been taking the antidepressants, he noticed his depression did not get any better, and on some days, it got worse. He started to wonder what was happening to him, because despite his riches on the outside, he was living in poverty on the inside. He was thinking that perhaps the demons from the people he had defrauded in Wall Street was haunting him. Richard also realized that because of his riches, society treated him as if he had a mask on his face. His mask was the mark of affluence. He started to do a soul searching regarding how to take off his mask of affluence. Richard made a decision to take of his mask of affluence and to put on a mask of poverty. He decided to live as a homeless person on the streets of New York for a year. Despite his wife’s objection, Richard flew to New York, put on rags, and started living in the streets of New York as a homeless person. He carried a bag on his shoulder which contained some essentials he needed to survive in the street. Inside his backpack he also had a million dollars in cash. Richard would go from shelter home to shelter home, under the bridge, into the very dark alleys and into very dangerous drug infested streets. He was giving money to the homeless at the same time begging for food. His determination was never to spend the money for himself but to give them all away to those in the street that were in need. At the same time he wanted to know what would happen to his depression once he took off his mask of affluence and put on the mask of poverty.

While in the streets, Richard met many different kinds of people of all races and nationalities. They were all living in the street including families who were working that could not afford to pay rent, and were ejected from their homes and apartments. Richard did not stay in New York; he went across the nation living in the streets as a homeless person and giving money to people that were in need. Close to a year after Richard had been in the street, he was successful in giving away all the money without being robbed. But, he ran into a problem. Richard who was not used to a life in the streets caught pneumonia and was hospitalized in one of the Chicago hospitals. He was barely hanging on to life. A search into his pocket of rags revealed the name of his wife who was called to notify her about her husband’s condition. When Danielle, his wife arrived in Chicago, workers at the hospital were shocked to see how she dressed and arrived as the wife of a very rich man, yet her husband arrived in the hospital as a homeless man. She wasted no time telling them that she had not heard from her husband close to a year because he wanted to leave as a homeless person on the street for a year.

A week after Richard was in the hospital, he got better. Danielle his wife stood by his bedside throughout the time he was in the hospital. However, Danielle noticed a young homeless black lady (Lisa) who visited her husband when he was in the hospital everyday. The woman did not say a word. She would come, sat in the room while Richard was unconscious and said nothing. When Richard opened his eyes, the only thing this woman said to him was, "Richard, are you okay? Later Danielle asked her husband who the woman was. Richard did not answer his wife. Instead, when Richard was discharged from the hospital and flying back in his private jet back to California he asked the black lady to fly with them. Danielle was fuming with anger not knowing who this woman was. When they all arrived back in California, Richard asked his wife to give a room to Lisa who stayed with them for two weeks. Danielle could not wait to hear what her husband was going to say about this black lady who was staying with them, and suppose to be homeless.

After two weeks, Richard called a meeting with his wife Danielle and Lisa the homeless lady that was staying with them. During the meeting, Richard told his wife how he felt so much peace when he took off his affluence mask. Each time he gave money to those in need he felt so much joy within. "I felt the greatest joy in my life each time I gave money to those who were in need living in the street," said Richard with great smile in his face. "Finally, I found a cure for my depression!" he shouted, and something else. He told his wife how he met Lisa, a homeless lady in the street. Lisa always carried a Bible while in the street. She became homeless after she lost her job and was ejected from her apartment. Lisa and Richard became very good friends and it was Lisa who led him back to Christ. They both started attending church together in the south part of Chicago when Richard later became ill with pneumonia. It was Lisa who took him to the hospital. Richard however dropped a bomb when he told Danielle his wife that he had been intimate with Lisa, and that Lisa was expecting a child. Danielle stormed out of the room shouting all kinds of obscenity at Richard. She ran into the bedroom. Lisa followed her to comfort her while she wept over her husband’s affair. When the two women were alone, Lisa apologized for what had happened and told Danielle she did not know that Richard was married. He never talked about his family, and she felt that Richard was just another homeless man without a family. Lisa asked Danielle for forgiveness.

After about thirty minutes of discussion between the two women, they came out of the bedroom and back in the living room. Richard was smiling as both women came out of the bedroom holding hands as if they were friends for a long time. Danielle also asked Lisa for forgiveness because she was so embarrassed when she heard that her husband had an affair with a homeless black woman. She was not angry at the affair as much as she was angry that her husband humiliated her by sleeping with a homeless woman. "Perhaps another white woman or some brunette in the office somewhere, why a homeless black woman?" Danielle added. Richard jumped into the conversation and explained to Danielle that the mask of their riches was a mask of emptiness and depression. There was no fulfillment in looking down on anybody, but in offering comfort to those who were suffering. He urged his wife to take off her mask of affluence and put on a mask of compassion for other people for a change.

Danielle confessed to both her husband and Lisa that she had been suffering from depression too. Despite their wealth, she felt a great void inside. She was planning on attending church with a friend of hers who had invited her to a church that Sunday. Both Lisa, Richard and Danielle attended church together. Lisa and Danielle became good friends. Lisa moved back to Chicago after she stayed a month with Richard and his family. She severed an intimate relationship with Richard once she found out that Richard was married. Richard helped Lisa to settle back in Chicago in a house. A few months later she had a baby boy. Richard gave more than half of his riches to churches and charity organizations. He sold all their mansion homes, expensive cars, and purchased a smaller house to live with his family. Richard became a preacher, started to live a moderate life of contentment by downsizing his affluence lifestyle. He found more joy in the heart of Jesus and not in the midst of his riches. Lisa later got married to another man in Chicago, both Richard and Danielle his wife attended her wedding.

This story defines the truth about what Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Richard was a rich man who defrauded many people of their money in Wall Street. In his fraudulent schemes he became very rich. Yet, his riches did not give him the happiness or joy he was searching for. He found joy as a homeless man in the streets, and found more joy when he rediscovered Jesus through a homeless woman. Sometimes we find truth in the wilderness of shame.

There are so many people today who are very rich in material things, but living a life of abject poverty of the soul. On the outside, they look good to society, while on the inside they are dying. They tend to suffer from depression and other forms of emotional illnesses because material riches cannot replace the need for the Holy Spirit within. These people are very rich, yet they are living a miserable life of great poverty in the absence of God. Consequently, they resort to using all kinds of other means including drugs, alcohol, sexual perversions, power, fame, food, and other destructive things to bandage their emotional pain. When we fail to recognize God the Father, Jesus the Son, and Holy Spirit the comforter, we create a god for ourselves due to the pride of affluence. That god is the one we see in the mirror everyday as we start to worship the image of our success and kick the real God to the side. Unfortunately some Christian leaders are doing the same thing. Their celebrity image is more important than their relationship with the Lord and the mission to reach "the least of these my brethren." They are always looking for Jesus in the faces of celebrities. Jesus came wearing the face of a common man. They missed him - the very person they had been waiting for. Even some churches closed their doors to those they considered less worthy because some of the churches are reduced to club membership instead of a haven for the fallen and hurting.

Jesus said, "Watch out and be vigilant against all kinds of greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions" (St. Luke 12:15). Richard, the wealthy man learned his lesson in a hard way.

People become sad from time to time. It is impossible to guard against such normal human reaction to external events. But, when the reactive sadness lingers for weeks and months, then there is a problem with depression creeping inside human soul preceded by anxiety. The best antidote for sadness or depression is in continuously bathing the human soul with the Word of God and those words of assurance where the Lord made promises of hope to believers. For example David said, "In your presence is the fullness of joy and in your right hand are pleasures forever more" (Psalm 16:11). The important point is not just to read the Bible, but to actively seek the presence of God during our daily devotions and prayers by continuously meditating on the Word of God instead of meditating on despair, hate, fear, or anger. When we meditate on negative things, we inadvertently open the door for the enemy. Constantly blaming somebody else for your failure is the best way to keep you in emotional bondage. Reach out to Jesus and cry out to God. You will find true forgiveness at the foot of the cross and be embraced by the love of God crashing you into a state of perfect peace. The joy of the Lord will nurture your soul.

By ‘Yinka Vidal,

Author, Closer Walk With Jesus