So I'm currently listening to the audiobook of Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill—a classic among those types who want to "make it to the top". Personally, I like learning about the principles that successful (in all aspects of the word) people mentally appropriate to guide their actions and determine their responses to setbacks or hangups. It's been amazing to hear the consistency with which these "self-help" books proclaim the importance of thinking differently and how success—whether it be monetary, leadership, etc.—is determined, they argue, by what goes in and out of your mind. To this, I'd agree—and so would our God, I think.
After all, the church has been told for nearly 2000 years that it is by the renewal of our mind that our lives are transformed (cf. Rom 12.1–2). So should we really be surprised if other enterprises and agendas have commandeered this fundamental principle of mental reformation?
Ok, so aside from this aside, the real reason I'm writing is because as I listened to Hill's words, I realized how he is basically saying that to grow rich you must encourage yourself to not just love money, but be obsessed with it. Seriously. His words.
Now while I don't have a problem with money or getting rich, I do—because of what I read in scripture—have a problem with being encouraged to be obsessed with it. This is such a sad gospel to hear preached. There is no happiness in it. No joy. It's a shame so many people fall for it. But it's very interesting how it is presented. Here are some lines you might have heard before:
Wow! He's super successful!
She's living the dream!
Look how quickly he made it to the top!
Don't you want to win at life!?
The antithesis of all these assertions is that if you're not doing them you're not successful, you're failing; you're living a nightmare, or at least not dreaming; you're still at the bottom; you're a loser, losing at life.
This all is really depressing, but more importantly, these words sugarcoat what they really mean:
Wow! He's super rich!
She's living rich!
Look how quickly he got rich!
Don't you want to be rich in life?!
Now, don't get me wrong. Money is NOT bad. Being rich is NOT bad. Wanting and trying to be or become rich is NOT bad. It's the love, the obsession, the idolization of anything but God that is the beginning of a long spiral down into sorrow and wickedness.
So what's my hangup? It's that people like Hill, who are preaching a terrible "gospel", are creating false dichotomies—that to be poor or have just enough is to be failing at life; it's that they not only equate "success" with "wealth" but that they elevate "success" to only mean "wealth", "at the top" to only mean "riches", "dreams" to only pertain to "gobs of money". It's as if the filter through which they see life has been turned to $ signs.
I'll close with a reaffirmation of what I've already said: money isn't bad. I know quite a few people that make gobs of money, that are easy millionaires—but do you know what, they are good people still and they cherish their relationship with our God. Much has been given to them, and they give much away.
One of them recently told me, "Money is neither bad nor good. It's like a scalpel in a surgeon's hand. It has the potential to do great harm or great good... If you give a lot of money to a person it is like putting a magnifying glass to his heart: it makes good people better, and it makes bad people worse."
I heartily agree.