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The Myth of Money

September 22, 2010

We all want to be something that we aren’t, don’t we?

Even if you’re happy with your life, there’s likely some goal you’d like to accomplish or some personal flaw you’d like to fix.

These goals can be as simple as losing weight or reading more, or as complex as cultivating new character traits.

Regardless, there’s always something.

I often hear people say, “If I won the lottery, I’d…[fill in the blank].”

Put another way, people say, “If I had plenty of money and didn’t have to worry about that any more, I’d…[fill in the blank].”

People don’t just fill in the blanks with statements like, “I’ the world,” or “I’d… buy a huge house.” I’ve noticed people lately saying things like, “I’d be more generous,” and “I’d do more to help people.”

Sometimes these statements sound like an apology; like someone’s saying, “I’d like to do something to help others, but I just don’t have the means.”

Other times they sound like an excuse; as if they’re saying, defensively, “I’ve got my own issues to worry about and can’t afford to help fix someone else’s problems.”

No matter how people say them, I hear the same message: “I’d act differently/be different if I were rich.”

One of my best friends, Kevin, is a wealth manager. He deals with a niche market of people who have between five and twenty million dollars, helping them develop a comprehensive plan to maintain their wealth and accomplish future financial goals. All of that is to say, Kevin knows a lot of people on the other side of this equation, people who don’t have to “worry” about money, per se.

Kevin is wise, and we often talk about big picture things like faith, family, culture and politics, but one of the most profound things he’s ever said to me was this: “Money doesn’t make anyone anything. It only makes them more of what and who they are.”

He went on to tell me about men and women he’s known that use their wealth to do incredible, world changing things and others who are simply jerks.

“The thing is,” he tells me, “those who are using their wealth for kindness and generosity were kind and generous before they got wealthy, and those who are jerks were jerks before, they’re just bigger jerks with money and a sense of entitlement now.”

To sum up Kevin’s thoughts, it would seem that money just acts as a magnifying glass to hone in and bring out someone’s true character.

Give someone, anyone, a million dollars and then follow them around for a week and see what they begin to do with the money. They will reveal their true values rather quickly.

The Bible, and Jesus in particular, had a great deal to say about money. One story always stands out to me:

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.”
Mark 12:-41-44

I can’t help but feel like Jesus is, in this story, calling attention to all of the times I’ve put off an action of love and generosity because I thought it’d be too small or insignificant to matter, or that I didn’t have the means to do something. “If only I had plenty of money and didn’t have to worry about things, then I could make a real impact in feeding the hungry,” I think, as I pass a man begging on the street corner.

My challenge today is a simple one: to look within yourself and consider what you’d “be” and what you’d do, “if you won the lottery and didn’t have to worry about money.” Then, go out and, even in the smallest way, be/do that.

I think most of us want to have a positive impact in the world and sure, it’d be great if we all had millions of dollars to spend doing so. But the smallest of actions can change a day in a person’s life and perhaps, one day and one person at a time, we can change the world.

This Pilgrim’s Progress would like to extend special thanks of inspiration to Turk Pipkin of The Nobelity Project, who I had the pleasure of hearing speak earlier this week. I was already working on this post about money and wealth and the myths that surround it, but Turk helped to inspire and give direction to this post.

To learn more about the good work Turk is doing, check out the trailer for The Nobelity Project’s film, One Peace at a Time.

You can contribute to The Nobelity Project here:


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