Commonplace Thoughts of a Residual Welshman: Wealth and Hurricanes

He “loves like a hurricane,” says John Mark MacMillan in a contemporary Christian song, referring to God. These days, with images of Harvey and Irma fresh in our minds, such a simile is indeed frightening. Such love does not immediately give the hearer peace of mind. It bends him, twists her; it is violent, uncontrolled; it is superabundant, dangerous.

A recent article described women valuing wealth more than men primarily for a surprising reason. While men would prefer to have money to splurge on material things, luxuries, sports cars, etc., women would prefer to have it for “security.” Most women would forego shopping, plastic surgery, and even a fancy vacation (though of course those who love travel would consider the last of these) to obtain this savings. The gist of the article is this: women are more sensible than men and would like simply to streamline their life, making it less hectic, more livable. “On average,” Julia Carpenter, the article’s author, writes, “the women surveyed said they’d consider around $2.4 million the number required to be considered ’wealthy.’ That’s nearly 30 times the net worth of U.S. households.”

The last bit of this jumped off the page at me, that figure of thirty times the net worth (net worth is not just liquid assets but everything combined, after debts are subtracted). The use of a calculator quickly reveals that such a figure means the net worth of the average household is $80,000. That is not one individual—that’s a family’s net worth. I verified this by a quick Google search.[1] While I could not find a definitive number for global net worth, it is apparent that that figure would be significantly lower than the average American household’s eighty grand. Quite significantly.

Not that I am against peace of mind—nearly everyone recognizes that having some savings is a good idea, as one should, if it is possible, be sensible. But amassing most of the money in the world—the top 1% has between 33 and 42% of it; the exact numbers are disputed[2]—how is that a good idea? Does everyone have to be Bill Gates? And anyway, how can one feel the hurricane’s force when bunkered in an entirely safe wine cellar on a private island?[3]

Which brings us back to John Mark MacMillan’s song. I suppose women are more sensible than men in wanting enough wealth not to have to worry constantly about how to make the bills. But the number that the article says they advanced—2.4 million—such a figure goes well beyond worrying about paying the electric bill.

Thus I close with this thought. When the Israelites were wandering through the wilderness, their God offered them manna every day, gratis, poured down on the gentle winds of heaven, a provision, a blessing given to the people of God in time of need. But there was a condition: one could not gather more than one needed, except that he or she might not have to work on the Sabbath day. What a strange thing, when one thinks about it. God giving provision mercifully, every day; to turn the formula around, we, if we believe in him, receiving all that we need from his hand, every day. Does that preclude our working hard? No, of course not, for the notion of the manna is not a literal lesson—one eats heavenly provided food only—but rather a symbolic one, just as the hurricane is a symbol for the powerful love of God, a frightening one, these days.

I end this blog with this thought—the wind can come and blow away wealth, not just houses. That means that real peace of mind isn’t available to us, whether we are men or women or an entire household, by over-amassing wealth but instead, perhaps, only by feeling the wind, being aware both of its power and the provision that the winds of heaven can confer upon us, like manna. And if we have extra manna, maybe we should share it with those in need, like those now in the path of Irma or the wake of Harvey.

May those who have suffered from those hurricanes find that peace now, may they sense God’s grace in the midst of trouble and be provided earthly provision by those who care. May they, and all of us, find the peace of mind that doesn’t come with wealth, but comes from knowing that He who made the wind and the stars is with us in the darkest hours.

[1] https://www.fool.com/retirement/2017/07/03/how-does-your-net-worth-compare-to-that-of-the-ave.aspx

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/03/brookings-1-percent/473478/

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/08/richard-branson-survived-hurricane-irma-on-necker-island.html

 

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