Those Nasty One Percenters!

Pastor's Ponderings IllustrationBible Readings for the day: Proverbs 19:23-20:4, 1 Corinthians 7:17-35, Ecclesiastes 4:1-6:12
Meditational Reading: Ecclesiastes 5:10-12
10  He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
11  When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes?
12  Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

It wasn’t all that long ago that we heard the catch phrases, “The one percent” and “the war on the middle class.”  Politicians throw catch phrases around, hoping to find something that resonates with the voters.  And by throwing that phrase out there, they identify with “the ninety-nine percent.”  There’s one silly little problem, though:  most politicians, at least on the national level, aren’t (economically) among the ninety-nine percent.  And I am not taking sides; this inequity is found both with Republican and Democrats.

If we’re going to be absolutely honest, compared to most of the world, westerners are among the richest people in the world (even if you’re not a one percenter!).  Thirty two years ago I drove a Lutheran pastor from Hong Kong and his wife to a mission festival at the church I attended when in seminary.  We drove through north St. Louis, the city and the county.  We drove past a public housing complex; there were bars on all the doors and ground floor windows.  The pastor looked on the scene and asked who lived there.  When I told him it was poor people, he marveled at how well they had it compared to the poor people in Hong Kong (which was still under British control at the time).  These poor people lived in houses (apartments, actually); they were protected from criminals (kind of).  He gave me a new perspective on public housing in America.  Even the poorest of our poor can live in decent housing compare to the poor in other parts of the world.

So, what does all this have to do with today’s meditational reading?  I don’t know!  We live in a world where we look at other people and become angry.  The one precenters don’t pay their fair share!  The people on the bottom (we’re never told their percentage) are all takers and not givers!  We look around and see others and condemn them and forget to look at ourselves.

When I first read today’s meditational reading I remember back to when my wife worked.  She took home a good sum of money.  I don’t remember the amounts.  The day came and she lost her job!  We were sure that we would be in financial difficulty.  But we weren’t!  As we looked at our previous spending, we realized that we wasted an awful lot of money.  There were thing we “needed”.  In truth those were things we “wanted.”  And when we got them, we wanted more!  When my wife’s earning were taken out of the mix, we didn’t suffer.  Yes, we cut back on things we didn’t need, but our life-style did not suffer.

I learned an important lesson:  the more we had, the more we spent, the more we wasted.  I can look at the one percenters and say we should punish them because they have so much.  I could look at the bottom ten (or whatever) percent and be angry at them because they do not avail themselves to the opportunities provided them.  I can look at everyone else and see their problem and fail to look at myself and see my problem.  My feeling of envy and revenge (for the one percenters), my feelings of anger and condescension (for the people at the bottom) are sin.  I need to repent of my sin.

I also need to do something else.  I am rich beyond belief (and I’m not a one percenter!).  I need to use my riches in a God-pleasing manner.  The beginning of that is the realization that God has given me my riches; they are his blessings given to me.  I am to rest content in what he has given me and use what he has given me to take care of my family, myself, and other, less fortunate, people.

A prayer:  Lord, I repent of my sin of covetousness.  Let me live content and use the gift you have given me in a way that pleases you.  Amen!

Should you wish to access Pastor Kerner’s sermon archive, you can do so at

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 585 South St. (Route 75), Suffield CT 06078 USA  Should you wish to support this ministry, you can mail a check to the church.

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