A Letter to Rich, the Young Ruler

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Dear Rich,

What a pleasant surprise to receive a letter from you! Your previous letter said you’d been working 60 hours a week to get the promotion you wanted, and now I read that you’ve received it. Looks like your hard work has paid off. You certainly are living the American Dream!

Congratulations, too, on your new five-bedroom home and your new Porsche Cayenne. I’m sure your wife and kids are deliriously happy with both. Thanks also for the pictures from your recent vacation to St. Kitts. My, the twins sure have grown.

I read the printout you enclosed of the blog article written by the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. You agree with his contention that there’s no compelling reason to buy an Apple iPhone. That’s probably a wise decision.

In reading that article, though, I find his reasons for not buying an iPhone intriguing. Most of the reasons he cited were technological. I, for one, think a far better reason to avoid it exists.

In our previous correspondence, we’ve gone back and forth on Jesus and what it means to be a Christian. I know you are quite a spiritual person, a “seeker” as you say, but I believe being spiritual and religious doesn’t go far enough.

So, Rich, I’d like to consider a word you don’t hear much today: profligate. That’s a word I would have liked to have seen mentioned in the article from the Thomas Nelson CEO, but even companies that deal with words shy away from some of the less popular ones. Profligate is one of those words.

Here’s how the dictionary defines the term:

Profligate

†“adjective
1. utterly and shamelessly immoral or dissipated; thoroughly dissolute.
2. recklessly prodigal or extravagant.

†“noun
3. a profligate person.

I can’t help but think, Rich, that since perfectly good cell phones can be had for $50, the desire for one that costs ten times that much seems…well, profligate. No doubt, the iPhone reeks of style and trendiness, and no doubt, many people who claim to follow Jesus will buy one. I’m not sure, though, that those buyers understand the word profligate.

Let me tell you about some people I know. I know a couple who bought a small home in one of the worst neighborhoods in our city. He has a good job and could afford a much larger home, but he and his wife elected to use their extra money to meet the desperate needs of their poorer neighbors. I know a man who forgos the expensive medication he needs to feel better so he can help a woman who has no health insurance pay for the even more expensive cancer medication she needs. I know a family who sent $1000 of their hard-earned money to help an unemployed couple they had never met in person make a house payment so they could keep their home. I know a man who gave every cent he owned in the world to fund a missionary couple who would have been recalled. Those missionaries were in the middle of their translation of the Bible into a new language. They would’ve had to come home unless they raised enough money to complete the translation.

Funny thing is, those people I just mentioned don’t know the common, negative understanding of the word profligate either—but for a far different reason. They live a different way: the way of Christ. If they have any profligacy in their lives, it’s profligacy in giving, not taking.

You mentioned in your last letter that I sounded out of step with the rest of the world. Indeed, I fear I am. You see, for me, it’s not so much about accumulating the hip trinkets of this life, things that break, become obsolete, and ultimately do not satisfy the longings of the heart. That’s because I believe in a world far more real than this one, a world where hip trinkets pale in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yes, as you said, it’s a risky belief. It means not keeping up with the social standing of the rest of the world. I would probably never be voted into the wonderful country club you and Mrs. Ruler just got accepted to. But that’s okay, Rich. It really is.

Some Christians believe this world is not their home. They won’t be understood by the rest of the world, nor by some other people who say they believe in Jesus. They’ve said no to many of the things the world offers and that’s an exceedingly hard thing to do.

You see, Rich, it’s one thing to say you believe something. It’s another thing altogether to believe something so much that your life looks radically different from the rest of the crowd. The crowd says so many things and believes so many things, doesn’t it? But who is willing to die to the voice of majority and give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose? In a way then, the true profligate may be the one who appears to have every thing deemed good by the world’s standard, but will one day wind up losing it all in tears and flames. He has gained the world, but lost his soul.

I know my letter may not make sense to you. I’ll keep praying, though, that for all your seeking, God in His grace will make Himself known to you.

But I must caution you, Rich. If He does, and you take that revelation seriously, it may mean an end to one dream and the beginning of another. That new dream won’t look much like the old one, though. It may mean not only forgoing an iPhone, but giving up cell phones altogether. You may end up thinking it better to share those extra bedrooms in your new home with orphans or widows even if it means you could no longer afford that home theater system you said you might be purchasing. Don’t expect to be popular for electing not to keep up with the Joneses so you can minister life to others. The folks you run with probably won’t approve of your new dream. You may lose your standing at the country club. You may even be kicked out because you’re no longer one of the right kind of people.

But then again, that new dream’s the only dream that counts, the only one that ends in the Eternal Golden City. I pray I see you there.

For the Kingdom,

B. A. Disciple

14 thoughts on “A Letter to Rich, the Young Ruler

  1. Hi, i just surfed in searching for interesting blogs on Spirituality, you have a cool blog. Do keep up the good work. I’ll be back even though i live far from where you live. its nice to be able to see what people from across the world thinks.

    Warm Regards from the Other Side of the Moon.

    On a related note perhaps you might find the following link interesting. Its propossing a theory and i’ll like to hear your take on the subject via comments. See ya…

    Was
    Jesus an Essenes ?

    Bibby

    Kerala, India

  2. A couple of scriptures came to mind as I read this –

    John 6:60 (English Standard Version)

    60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

    2 Peter 3:15-17 (English Standard Version)

    15And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

    Thanks for the excellent letter and for the realization that we don’t need to get caught up in the hype.

  3. Dan,
    That was an excellent post. I could see it as the introduction to a chapter on the subject in a book on the culture of the American church. Any plans to write such tome?

  4. Jeff H

    Dan,

    This is a critical issue. We live in such abundance and at times it’s easy to believe we don’t need God.

    “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20)

    A good question to consider is do I actually want Jesus to return? Things are going OK here without Him right?

  5. Andrew

    Dan,
    found you by mistake and found it thought provoking and real. I would unfortunately include addressing this to the Church in general. The comfortable church, the predictable sterile church that likes others to come to church rather than the church go to the people.

    I had just addressed some of your points in our ‘Yong Adults’ group. Keep it coming please!

  6. Dan,
    Just to add, that we have all kinds of people coming to our community. Some are Christians, some not. Several are the children of Christian leaders in prominent positions, yet there’s some serious impoverishment going on in spiritual matters. Consuming, as a way of life, has left a generation in a wasteland, where many are seriously lost.

  7. Chad

    Interesting post Dan. I think that most American Christians would find this a bit confusing. Our education has inculcated a strong resistance to anything that applies a moral constraint upon our system of commerce.

    Care to guess how many Christians invest in mutual funds that derive their profits from fabricated “needs” such as this? Not just the consumer, but the producer is at fault here. The golden rule must be the impetus for our business and marketing endeavors (Christians, I think, know how severely this would constrain their retirement accounts, and so there will be a natural disposition against it). Why would any Christian want to line his pocket to give his neighbor something that 1) he doesn’t need, 2) he probably can’t afford, and 3) just feeds his pride and self-satisfaction.

  8. Kaye

    Dan,
    Thanks for writing this. It stayed with me all day. We may get to read your “genuine fermented thoughts” on occasion, but more often than not, this leads to a bubbling in our own brains as well.

    God help us to be real.

  9. I am definitely drooling on the sidelines over this iPhone. But then I read Mike Metzger’s words on this, and it brought me down to earth. He is a fellow from the Clapham Institute.

    I posted them here:
    “What might the iPhone undo?
    http://provocativechurch.blogspot.com/2007/06/what-iphone-may-undo.html

    I wish I had written this, it is so tight!

    I think his thought are a bucket of cold water. I need to ask thoughtful questions about the technology in my life, before I just rush to embrace it. Technology has implications. Tell me what ya think.

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