Thursday, October 11, 2012


It makes me sad and a little bit troubled to see how much people demonize wealth. I think there are definitely people who seek wealth in selfish and greedy ways that hurt the people around them. But wealth in and of itself is not bad.

Wealth is a beautiful motivator. We all like to be able to buy the things we want. We desire to have a house in a safe area where we can be comfortable. We strive to care for our family. We save money for that awesome "thing" we must have. Having wealth allows us to accomplish our goals. It allows us to make donations and serve. It allows us to vacation with our family. Making money allows us to save for retirement, so that one day we can have an income without working. Desiring wealth is something we all have in common. No matter how much money you have, you have to admit that money is very important to you... right? I know it's important to me. I need money to pay the bills, buy groceries, take care of the car, pay for school, and to have fun.

Because we all need money to take care of ourselves, if you take away the ability to gain wealth, you take away motivation. When you tell people that no matter how hard they work, they'll make the same amount of money and have the same opportunity for promotion, they lose motivation. When you tell people who are in an incredibly difficult (and important) line of work that they don't deserve the money they are making and attempt to take it away, you lose a lot of those talented, bright, and hardworking people.

It's interesting that we complain about how wealthy people are while simultaneously enjoying our iPhones, watching the NFL, receiving first class medical care and prescriptions that save our lives, playing on our computers, and checking facebook. Do you think these things would be around if wealth wasn't at stake? Would companies and researchers invest millions of dollars to bring us what we want if there was nothing in it for them?

Many people who hate wealth say teachers should make more money. Why should teachers make more money? Because their job is incredibly important! So why do they need more money? So more people will want to be teachers and so the field will attract more and better people! So we agree - wealth is a motivator.

Here's the thing. With a few exceptions, people don't become wealthy without contributing in some way. People aren't being paid gobs of money to sit around and eat bon bons. They're being paid to run business to bring you what you want. They're being paid to save lives. This is kind of an old statistic, but As of 1996, 80% of millionaires were first generation rich.

As my friend Jessica said, the poverty cycle is real. I know this and I don't think that we should say, "Suck it up, everyone has an opportunity to become rich, and if you're not it's clearly because you didn't try hard enough." No! There is a very obvious poverty cycle that strangles the success of many bright, hardworking people. But I do know that some people do rise up from this cycle. I know even more people rise up from lower middle class and middle class homes to make more for themselves.

But what happens when we as a nation decide that wealth is evil? At that point, who will strive to rise up from their surroundings? Who will be motivated to get an education in order to get a good job? What will happen when we tell people to not worry about working hard because making more money than someone else is bad? Who will try to rise up from poverty then?

If you want to tax the rich to help take care of people who are struggling financially, fine. But don't tax the rich because you think they don't deserve their money.

[As always, I'm very interested in your thoughts. As one person with the insights of only my life, my point of view can be very limited.]


  1. I think you are right in saying that many people demonize wealth. It does not have to be a bad thing and can be a tremendous motivator. My thoughts (which you requested) will be less about fiscal policy and more about the lens in which I view financial matters.

    Allow me to borrow some thoughts from a fabulous book titled "Approaching Zion" by Hugh Nibley.

    I think the world is indoctrinated with a concept called "lunch". There is no such thing as a free lunch, our daily bread, working to make ends meet etc.; these are a few quips that permeate society. Lunch is basically the necessities of life. Multiple times throughout scripture however we see the Lord providing free lunch. Manna from heaven, quail, oil, fishes and loaves, no purse or scrip, take no thought for the morrow.
    Yes we are commanded to work by the sweat of our brow but inherent in that commandment is that the Lord will do the providing if we do the working. When we work for an employer that is not the Lord, what he is holding over our heads is lunch. It is very powerful and even crippling to those who have a hard time obtaining lunch otherwise.

    Consider this quote from the book: “So let us go across the road for an interview with the Other Employer (The Lord). To our surprise, he answers our first question with an emphatic: ‘Forget about lunch! Don't even give it a thought!’ ‘Take no thought of what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink or wherewith ye shall be clothed!’ ‘But what will become of me then?’ you ask. Not to worry, ‘We will preach the gospel to you, and then you will find out that lunch should be the least of your concerns.’”

    I think money should be the least of our concerns in this life. In the law of Moses interest was illegal. Every 7 years ALL debts were forgiven. Yet we talk about living the higher law? Just those two financial policies in our day would cripple the economy. Why? Because people have an obsession with money and have invented all kinds of ways to manipulate it to their advantage.
    We are warned of extortion multiple times which means "to squeeze the last drop".

    Accumulation of wealth can and should be used for the very noble things you listed above yet it is very easy for it to become the object of our affection. Jesus felt it important enough to provide us with the story of the young ruler who was willing to give everything to the Lord, except his wealth. Why is it hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven? Because he does not understand that his wealth is a stewardship. Everything belongs to the Lord.

    The parable of the talents makes it quite clear that the Lord is aware of social castes and is more than willing to bless his children with the bounties of the Earth. What he is more interested in however is what we do with what we are given.
    I heard a general authority say: "If you don't know what you want to do with your life, do whatever will make you the most money, retire early and serve the church". Interesting to say the least.

    What are the real world applications of this? Is this too abstract or unrealistic? I don't think so. Say I want Chelsy to have a nice kitchen one day. My only criteria is that we not only cook food for our family, but also for the poor, the needy, the widowed, the sick, and the imprisoned. Repeat the following phrase in your mind and you will begin to see what I mean: "sufficient for our needs."

    Can wealth be a powerful motivator? Can wealth be a good thing? Yes to both. But I think that serving the Lord should be our first motivator and wealth will always follow. Will it be wealth in this world? Maybe. But what does it matter? Lets lay up treasures in heaven.

    (character limit)

  2. (continued)

    I'll finish with one last thought. Yes companies invest millions of dollars for us and we have all kinds of first world gadgets and entertainment. But what will we be doing during the millennium? Probably not any of those things. So do we need them now?
    What will doctors, lawyers, dentists, insurance companies and stock investors do during the millennium? Will they suddenly be out of work and have no way to provide for themselves? Of course not, they'll serve the Lord and he will give them lunch.

    I do not think the Lord will come and we will suddenly start living the law of consecration and everyone will suddenly switch employment. We will not suddenly abandon worldly pursuits and give up inappropriate media. No, we need to do those things ourselves now in preparation for the the 2nd coming.
    What does this have to do with your post? I think we need to move away from the idea of wealth as a motivator and more towards the idea of what can we do to prepare for a zion-like community, as a motivator.

    To end with a paraphrased Hugh Nibley quote: If the second coming were today, we would all die from culture shock.