Instruct the rich… not to be haughty.
Every spring for a handful of years, I went to Mexico to build houses in a slum outside of Tijuana. Usually, coming into those impoverished areas, people from home would begin to realize the wealth of suburban American life. And the state of much of the non-American world. Among the spiritually sensitive, gratitude would flow out to God for his manifold blessing upon them.
One late evening, I stood under the driveway lights at the house of a good friend and mentor, where he and I were talking about the “Mexico perspective”.
“I could,” said Chris, “Come back and think about how much I have, and how much God has blessed me. Or the ‘sacrifice’ we make in going down there. That’s what a lot of people do.”
That is how I had always thought about it.
“But,” he continued, “Think about what Christ left when he came. He left a lot more than a mansion in northern California.”
Such an appreciation of the Incarnation should drive humility. (Paul says so in Philippians 2).
I also think that it keys our understanding of the admonition in 1 Timothy 6:17, where he tells Timothy, “Instruct the rich not to be haughty.” It is the first in the series of six instructions for the rich in this age – nowadays, the Americans.
Haughtiness fundamentally plagues the rich. Riches bring pride – haughtiness, eyes cast down upon another. Scripture relates haughtiness with the gaze of the eyes, with how you or I look at another (Ps 18:27; 101:5; Prov 6:17; 21:4; Is 2:11, et al).
David Powlison says this:
Pride is not just about ME. It’s also about you. I must look down on you in some way. Our absorption in judgmental opinions runs very deep. Pride says, “I’m right in myself.” Haughty eyes say, “I’m right compared to you.” (Seeing With New Eyes, 79).
Obviously, such a “viewpoint” comes easily to the rich. Somehow, we measure ourselves in dollars, as if someone with two dollars doubles in intrinsic human value a man with only one.
We – the rich – must guard against this.
We must meditate and soak this truth through the framework of our consciousness: one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15).
Romans 12:16 helps with this, with the “How?” of crucifying haughtiness. It says, literally, “thinking not haughty, but associating with the lowly.” I think that Paul is purposefully broad here, and the translation should stand as literally as possible, leaving open the assumption of both lowly people and lowly tasks.
Such was the way of Jesus – associating with both the lowly people and the lowly tasks, both cosmic (the Cross) and mundane (washing feet). Today in my morning reading, I came to Mark 2:16, where the Pharisees challenge Jesus’ questionable (apparently) association with “sinners and tax collectors.” Providentially, I had “cf. Rom 12:16” written in the margin, a verse I already had planned on using for this post. My assumption is that the Lord wanted me to tie in Romans 12:16 with Mark 2:16, relating both to the issue of the danger of the haughty eyes of rich Americans.
So, then, we must associate with the lowly people who we think we are above, and the lowly tasks we think we should not have to do. Jesus did.
Let us ponder these things, fellow rich Americans.
Let us compel ourselves to lowly associations.
Let us befriend and love those in different social and religious and moral strata.
Let us do the things we do not want to do.
Let us gouge out our haughty eyes.