Perspective for Leaders on Wealth
Contributed by Justin Irving
“Do not be overawed when a man
grows rich” (Psalm 49:16 [NIV])
To be a
leader today often means having to be comfortable around people from a wide
range of socio-economic backgrounds.
provides a helpful reminder for leaders to “not be overawed when a man grows
rich.” The Bible seems to be targeting the human tendency in our hearts to
inordinately admire—or envy—those who are wealthy. Why is this tendency
dangerous? Why is this warning especially relevant for leaders? Three answers to
these questions come to mind.
Samuel 16 records the events surrounding the occasion of David’s being anointed
by Samuel to be King of Israel. Upon Samuel’s arrival to anoint Israel’s future
king Samuel saw Eliab, son of Jesse, who possessed the physical appearance and
stature that Samuel expected of a king. As Samuel saw Eliab and thought to
himself that surely he was the Lord’s anoint, God gently corrected Samuel
look at his appearance or at the height of his stature…God sees not as man sees,
for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1
Sam. 16:7 [NASB]).
Samuel’s error, it is easy for leaders today to become focused on the outward
appearance, including one’s financial status. God’s correction is as much for us
as Samuel. God’s gentle redirection is clear—look to the heart and character of
people and not to external measures of socio-economic status.
James 2 provides an additional reminder for today’s leaders. In light of the
temptation to become “overawed when a man grows rich,” James reminds us of the
importance of not showing favoritism toward those who are rich. Reminding us of
our Lord’s second greatest commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself”
(James 2:8 [NASB]) Use the NIV here to ensure continuality with the previous
reference…, James provides a clear warning to his readers: “if you show
partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as
transgressors.” To honor God, we are called to not show favoritism toward those
who are rich; honoring the rich and poor with equity begins by not being over or
under-awed by those we encounter.
Paul offers a call for Christian leaders to provide a direct challenge to those
who are wealthy. Paul writes: “Instruct those who are rich in this present world
not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on
God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17 [NASB]Use
NIV here again). For Christian leaders to be able to serve the rich by calling
them to trust in God and not their money, they must first learn the art of
seeing people with the eyes? of Christ. They must not be “overawed” by those
who are rich.
leaders posses the ability to not be “overawed when a man grows rich,” they
begin to possess the Christ-like perspective that enables them to look at the
heart of a person. Such perspective will enable leaders to not yield to
favoritism, and to provide care for the rich and poor alike by calling to them
to a whole-hearted trust in God.
Example of the devotional
executive directors regularly face the challenge of speaking to multiple
stakeholders and constituencies. For example, the Executive Director of a
non-profit organization often will serve at the governance level as an ex
officio board member, as well as at the programmatic level strategically
engaged in the day-to-day operations of the organization.
this dual governance-programmatic function, the Executive Director will need to
regularly and flexibly adapt to communicating with a diverse set of audiences:
(a) board members, (b) senior staff, (c) program staff, (d) large donors, (e)
small donors, and (f) the people who are served by the organization’s
programming. Such flexibility requires that the organizational leader have an
honest and authentic interest and concern for people that will facilitate
partnering with the diverse network of people associated with the organization.
who is “overawed” by the wealthy may find it difficult to engage the large donor
in an authentic manner. The leader who shows favoritism based on external
indices of status may find it difficult to display equitable and authentic
concern for those who are served by their programming. In contrast, the leader
who is informed more by internal indices rather than external indices will be
free to authentically lead as stewards of their organization’s mission. They
will possess a capacity to be genuine in their interest and concern for others,
no matter what the socio-economic status of these people.
Application of the devotional
1:22, James writes, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive
yourselves. Do what it says” (NIV). Such passages demonstrate the importance of
taking the principles of Scripture and applying them to life, for the inner life
relates to real life. Because leaders deal with real people with real economic
situations, take a moment to reflect on the people in your area of influence. As
you reflect on these people, who are you inclined to treat with favorable or
unfavorable inequity? How would the application of this devotional change the
way you relate to these people?
Practical exercise related to the devotional
time you find yourself engaged with someone who is of a different socio-economic
background pay attention to the tendencies of your heart. Do you find yourself
inclined to show favoritism toward those who are wealthy? Is it challenging to
honor the poor with the respect that their dignity as people created in God’s