The Right Way to Be Rich

If you are going to seek to be rich somewhere, seek to be rich toward God.

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:33 CSB).

A wasted life focuses all of its effort on the 80 or so years here, living in earthly riches now and taking little to nothing into eternity. But one who lives wisely gives richly to God with their time, money, and talents, and by doing so stores up treasure in heaven.

I recently released a new book called What Are You Going to Do With Your Life? It explores the difference in a wasted life and one lived wisely. I open the book with a story about a sermon John Piper preached years ago that changed my life.

Passion Conference of 2000 wasn’t a great setting for a sermon. It was outdoors, rainy, and muddy. The wind was really boisterous, and it blew half of Dr. Piper’s notes out into the crowd, but he went on to share with the nearly 40,000 college students in attendance.

“Three weeks ago, we got word at our church that Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards had both been killed in Cameroon,” he began. “Ruby was over 80. Single all her life, she poured it out for one great thing: to make Jesus Christ known among the unreached, the poor, and the sick. Laura was a widow, a medical doctor, pushing 80 years old, and serving at Ruby’s side. The brakes failed, the car went over the cliff, and they were both killed instantly. And I asked my people: ‘Was that a tragedy?’”

A student in the crowd yelled, “No!”

“No,” Piper responded. “That is not a tragedy. But I’ll tell you what is.”

He then pulled out a page from Reader’s Digest and read out loud another story: “Bob and Penny took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball, and collect shells.”

Piper told the crowd, “The American Dream: come to the end of your life—your one and only life—and let the last great work before you give an account to your Creator be, ‘I collected shells. See my shells.’

“That, I submit to you, is a tragedy. People today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Today I’m here to plead with you: don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.”

It could all be over for any one of us this very day. When it is your time, will God say to you, “You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20)

Piper’s words shook me, and they should have the same effect on you: don’t waste your life.

Nothing given generously for God’s kingdom will be lost, and no life poured out freely for the gospel will be wasted.