“DO NOT BE OVERAWED WHEN OTHERS GROW RICH“
To be a leader today often means learning to be comfortable around people from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds.
Psalm 49:16 provides a helpful reminder for leaders to “not be overawed when others grow rich.” The Bible targets 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? Here are three observations to guide our response to such questions and provide some perspective on prosperity.
Looking to the Heart
First Samuel 16 records the events surrounding Samuel’s anointing of David as the future king of Israel. Upon Samuel’s arrival he saw Eliab, son of Jesse, who possessed the physical appearance and stature that Samuel expected of a king. Samuel saw Eliab and thought to himself that surely this was the Lord’s anointed; God gently corrected Samuel:
“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
Similar to Samuel’s error, it is easy for leaders today to become focused on the outward appearance. God’s correction is as much for us as Samuel. God’s gentle redirection is clear—look primarily to the heart and character of people and not to external measures of socio-economic status.
Finding No Place for Partiality
James 2 provides an additional reminder for today’s leaders. In light of the temptation to become “overawed when others grow rich,” James reminds us of the importance of not showing favoritism toward those who are rich. Reminding us of the second greatest commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (James 2:8), James provides a clear warning to his readers: “if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (2:9). We are called to not show favoritism toward those who are rich; honoring the rich and poor with equity begins at the attitudinal level through not being over or under awed by those we encounter.
Setting our Hope on God
Finally, Paul offers a call for Christian leaders to provide a direct challenge to those who are wealthy. Paul writes: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). There is a tendency in many to put our hope in externals like money and possessions. Paul reminds us of the danger of the uncertainty of riches and calls us to something greater. For Christian leaders to effectively and compassionately serve the rich by calling them to trust in God rather than riches, these leaders must first learn the art of seeing people for who they are and not be “overawed” by uncertain externals.
When leaders possess the ability to not be “overawed when others grow rich,” they begin to possess the Christlike 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 wholehearted trust in God.