Blessed are the rich?

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

Time magazine's recent cover story, "Does God Want You to Be Rich?" delves into both sides of this apparently highly charged, particularly Protestant, question (Sept. 18).

With Joel Osteen on one side and Rick Warren on the other, it's like the clash of spiritual Titans. True, Mr. Osteen claims he's not saying "mega-wealth for everyone," but it's right to be able to pay your bills. And Mr. Warren isn't saying "poverty is the most holy," but that it's more about what we give than what we receive. And I find myself sort of agreeing with both.

Sort of. Because for me, the real issue is the definition of wealth.

I regard wealth from the premise that the only reality is Spirit. I try daily to come to a greater understanding of this truth, that the essence of life – what truly has value – is spiritual.

So when I read about anything good that is supposedly "coming" (like wealth or health or happiness), I'm correcting the scenario in my thought to, "It's already here." Goodness is spiritual, not material. The truth is that each one of us is infinitely wealthy. Divine Spirit is the universal, infinite, inexhaustible source of all good, all the time.

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "God is not moved by the breath of praise to do more than He has already done, nor can the infinite do less than bestow all good, since He is unchanging wisdom and Love....

"Shall we plead for more at the open fount, which is pouring forth more than we accept?" (p. 2). On the next page, she added: "Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more."

This, to me, is the recipe for abundance:

1. See the good surrounding us right now, flowing to us immeasurably.

2. Let our hearts be overwhelmed with gratitude.

3. Let that gratitude make us fit to receive more.

Like Osteen, then, I believe we can open our thought to this wealth and expect to experience it in the here and now in ways that are meaningful to us. Some people's concept of wealth might be the mansion with 25 acres, others' concept might be a special night out with a loved one. Experiencing abundance is a state of mind first, then an outcome. And the outcome can take any form.

Like Warren, then, I also believe when we have that firm grounding in abundance, we will be impelled to give back. We will want everyone else to feel this abundance, too. We may give money, we may give time, we may give prayer and love. But the impulse to give out of gratitude for gifts received is natural – and Christian.

The thing about this kind of abundance, the kind based in Spirit, is that it obviates any "keeping up with the Joneses." I know that my spiritual wealth is available to me at any time. I feel that I have it; I don't live with a sense of lack. This keeps me from feeling envious of those whose concept of abundance takes the form of more material goods. It also keeps me from thinking that those who have materially less than I do are somehow not as connected with Spirit.

In Spirit, we all have the same, and it's infinite. So yes, blessed are the rich – that's all of us.

I am come
that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly.
John 10:10

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